China’s economy expanded at a steady pace in the first quarter of 2018, helped by consumer spending amid moderation in industrial output and fixed asset investment growth.
Gross domestic product expanded 6.8 percent year-on-year, the same pace of growth as seen in the fourth quarter, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed Tuesday.
The rate also matched economists’ expectations. The government targets slower growth of about 6.5 percent for the whole year as it intends to bring stability in the financial system and curb corporate debt and combat pollution.
On a quarterly basis, the economy expanded at a slower pace of 1.4 percent in the first quarter after growing 1.6 percent in the previous three months.
In March, retail sales logged an annual growth of 10.1 percent, faster than the 9.7 percent in January to February period, another report from NBS showed. Economists had expected 9.7 percent increase.
Meanwhile, growth in industrial output eased to 6 percent from 7.2 percent in January to February. Output was forecast to expand 6.3 percent.
In the first quarter, fixed asset investment rose 7.5 percent following the 7.9 percent increase seen in the first two months.
According to a new official survey, the urban unemployment rate came in at 5.1 percent at the end of March.
While the Chinese economy held up fairly well in the first quarter, Julian Evans-Pritchard, an economist at Capital Economics, said a further slowdown is on the cards before the end of the year.
In particular, while the one-off boost to industrial production from the easing of pollution controls will fade before long, the drags from tighter fiscal policy and slower credit creation will continue to weigh on broader activity, the economist added.
The World Bank forecast China’s GDP growth to slow moderately this year to 6.5 percent as its economy continues to re-balance. Next year, the growth is seen at 6.3 percent.