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China's industrial output posts strong start to 2018

© AFP | The retail sector 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


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 percent year-on-year in January and February combined, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said, beating the 6.2 percent recorded in December and the 6.2 percent 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 percent 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 percent, year-on-year, up from 9.4 percent in December, but slightly below forecasts of 9.8 percent.

Online sales also boomed in the first two months, jumping 37.3 percent 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 percent in February compared with the same period last year, data released last week showed.

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

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

© 2018 AFP