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Chinese growth slips to 6.1 percent

China's annual gross domestic product growth slipped in the first quarter to 6.1 percent from 6.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008, marking the weakest growth since quarterly records began in 1992.

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AFP - China's economy grew 6.1 percent in the first quarter, the government said Thursday, continuing a startling slowdown for a country that not long ago was seeing double-digit growth rates.

The figure released by the National Bureau of Statistics was down from 6.8 percent growth in the fourth quarter of last year, underlining the impact of the global crisis on China's trade-dependent economy.

"The national economy is confronted with the pressure of a slowdown," Li Xiaochao, the bureau's spokesman, told reporters.

He said problems faced by the world's third-largest economy included a decline in exports, a drop in corporate profits and unemployment.

The figure follows nine percent growth for all of 2008, and comes amid concerns that China this year will experience its slowest economic expansion in 19 years.

Before the global economic crisis struck, China had experienced double-digit growth from 2003 to 2007.

Worldwide economic woes have left China, which last year worried that inflation might be too high, facing deflation.

The consumer price index (CPI), China's main gauge of inflation, fell 0.6 percent in the first quarter of 2009 from a year earlier, according to the bureau.

In March the CPI was down 1.2 percent from a year ago. Compared with February it fell 0.3 percent, it said.

The CPI grew 5.9 percent in 2008 but has weakened significantly in recent months.

Urban fixed asset investments rose 28.6 percent in the first quarter, while in March alone the increase was 30.3 percent year-on-year, the bureau said.

The figure is a measure of government spending on infrastructure, which got a huge boost in November with a four-trillion-yuan (580-billion-dollar) package aimed at warding off the effects of the global economic crisis.

Industrial output expanded 5.1 percent in the first quarter of 2009 from a year earlier, while in March it increased by 8.3 percent, the government said.

China's industrial output, which illustrates activity in the nation's millions of factories and workshops, rose 12.9 percent in 2008.

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