China's industrial output posts strong start to 2018

Thursday, March 15, 2018

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BEIJING, China (AFP) — China's industrial output strengthened in the first two months of the year, official data showed Wednesday, led by production at state enterprises.

Output at factories and workshops expanded 7.2 per cent year-on-year in January and February combined, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said, beating the 6.2 per cent recorded in December and the 6.2 per cent forecast in a Bloomberg News survey of analysts.

The higher output comes even as authorities press on with their fight against smog by clamping down on polluting heavy industries.

The drastic measures are working, with a recent analysis by the University of Chicago showing that cities have cut levels of PM 2.5 — the tiny airborne particles considered most harmful to health — by an average of 32 per cent over the past four years.

“The national economy has maintained stable and sound development in the first two months of 2018,” said NBS spokesman Mao Shengyong.

It “is a good start for high-quality development” Mao said, using President Xi Jinping's new buzzword for the “new era” economy China is aiming for.

The retail sector — which China is counting on to propel its high-quality development — recorded solid growth, a sign that China's rebalancing from its export-and investment-led economic model to one driven by consumer spending is well underway.

Retail sales for the first two months rose 9.7 per cent, year-on-year, up from 9.4 per cent in December, but slightly below forecasts of 9.8 per cent.

Online sales also boomed in the first two months, jumping 37.3 per cent year-on-year, the data showed.

The data comes at a time of great uncertainty for China's export machine as political machinations in Washington threaten exports to one of its largest markets.

The administration of US President Donald Trump unveiled new tariffs on steel and aluminium earlier this month and is expected to publish a damning review of China's intellectual property practices in coming weeks.

Still, for now, China's exporters are benefitting from a humming global economy with exports up 44.5 per cent in February compared with the same period last year, data released last week showed.

Fixed asset investment grew 7.9 per cent year-on-year for the first two months, beating expectations of 7.0 per cent, and reversing a trend of falling investment seen in the latter half of 2017.

China's gross domestic product grew at 6.9 per cent last year, the first annual acceleration since 2010.

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