|China's Beijing Automotive Industry Corp (BAIC) in Huanghua, north China's Hebei Province, March 19, 2015. Photo: Xinhua|
China's economic growth slowed to 7% in the first quarter of 2015, down from 7.3 % in the fourth quarter, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) announced on Wednesday. It was the lowest year-on-year quarterly growth since the first quarter of 2009.
Xinhua, the official news agency, reports that the latest figure was better than the forecasts by multiple institutions and it also has met an annual growth target of around 7% set by the Chinese central government for 2015.
On Tuesday the IMF forecast a GDP growth of 6.8% in 2015.
"The Chinese economy is generally holding steady in the first quarter because employment, consumer prices and market expectations are basically stable, despite a slowdown in economic growth," NBS spokesperson Sheng Laiyun said at a press conference in Beijing.
Sheng said the slowdown was expected as the Chinese government predicted tough challenges and continued downward pressure for the economy this year.
Sheng attributed the slowdown to sluggish global economic recovery in the post-crisis period and the ongoing structural reforms at home.
The first-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) totalled 14.07tn yuan (US2.29tn), up 7% year on year, according to the NBS data, which also indicated industrial output growth of 7.9 % during the period.
During the first quarter, industrial output in general grew 6.4% year on year, down from the 8.7-% growth a year ago; fixed asset investment rose 13.5% from a year earlier to 7.75tn yuan, slowing further from the 13.9-% growth registered in the January-February period this year — a 14-year low; retail sales gained 10.6% year on year to 7.07tn yuan, the data showed — it was a 9-year low.
Sheng said that despite slower industrial output and investment growth, "the country has steadily pushed forward structural reforms that led to a better industrial layout and rises in people's income."
The tertiary industry (services) accounted for 51.6 % of the total GDP in the first quarter, up 1.8 percentage points compared to the same period last year. Its share of the GDP also exceeded that of the secondary industry by 8.7 percentage points.
The average per capita disposable income of Chinese households rose 9.4% year on year to 6,087 yuan. The consumer price index, a main gauge of inflation, registered at 1.2% in the first quarter.
Consumption accounted for 3.8 percentage points to China’s full-year GDP growth last year, compared with 3.6 percentage points for investment and zero for net exports.