BEIJING, July 13: China's economy expanded at its slowest pace in more than three years as dire problems overseas started to hit home, official data showed on Friday, fuelling expectations of more stimulus moves.
The world's second-largest economy grew 7.6 per cent in the second quarter year-on-year, the National Bureau of Statistics said, the weakest since 6.6 per cent during the depths of the global financial crisis at the start of 2009.
“(The slowdown) was mainly due to the continued deterioration in the international environment, which further dampened foreign demand,” statistics bureau spokesman Sheng Laiyun told reporters.
“Domestic demand eased also as macro-economic tightening, particularly controls on the real estate sector, continued.”
The weak second-quarter expansion dragged down growth to 7.8 per cent for the first half of the year, a period when the debt crisis in Europe has deepened and the US economy has continued to struggle.
Sheng expressed confidence that the economy would stabilise and China would meet its full-year growth target of 7.5 per cent.
“I believe China's economy will continue moderate and steady growth in the second half of the year,” he said, citing the potential for investment, consumption and exports to propel expansion the rest of the year.
“We are very confident in achieving the full-year growth target.”
Nevertheless, the target growth rate of 7.5 per cent is well down on the 9.2 per cent achieved last year, and 10.4 per cent in 2010.
Stock market reaction in China to Friday's data was muted, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index ending a mere fraction higher.
Some other markets, including in Hong Kong, South Korea and Australia, showed stronger gains amid general relief that China's growth figure was not worse.
Tang Jianwei, economist at Bank of Communications in Shanghai, said the second-quarter result was in line with expectations and that China's planners would be able to speed up the economy.
“We expect economic conditions in the second half of the year will be slightly better than the first half,” Tang told AFP.
“We've already seen stabilisation in investment from June's data thanks to government stimulus policies.”
The government last week took the rare step of slashing interest rates for the second time in a month. That came after three cuts since December in banks' reserve requirements, or the amount of money they must keep on hand.
Such cuts are meant to free up funds for lending and thus boost the economy.
Chinese leaders have vowed to take further measures. Premier Wen Jiabao this week called stabilising economic growth the government's “top priority”.
Slowing growth in China is also casting a further cloud over the broader global economy, which is still suffering the effects of the 2008-2009 financial crisis.
Employment figures in the United States, the world's biggest economy, remain weak and Europe is struggling to overcome its sovereign debt crisis.
Ren Xianfang of IHS Global Insight said in a report that China's second-quarter figure marked the sixth straight three-month period of slower growth, and highlighted that the country's economy risked losing momentum.—AFP