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China says its economy grew 18.3% in the first quarter, slightly missing

By Evelyn Cheng
@CHENGEVELYN

KEY POINTS
Analysts polled by Reuters expected first quarter GDP to increase 19% from a year ago, when the economy shrank by 6.8% during the height of the domestic outbreak of Covid-19.

BEIJING — China reported first-quarter gross domestic product a touch below expectations as industrial production disappointed but retail sales beat.

GDP soared 18.3% in the first three months of the year from a year ago, China’s National Bureau of Statistics said Friday. That’s slightly below expectations of a 19% increase, according to analysts polled by Reuters.

The surge in growth comes off a contraction in the first quarter of last year, when the economy shrank by 6.8% during the height of the domestic outbreak of Covid-19.

China was the first country to deal with the disease, and the economy returned to growth by the second quarter of last year.

GDP expanded 10.3% in the first quarter when compared with the same period in 2019, the statistics bureau said.

20201019 Lee Asia China quarterly GDP
China also said retail sales rose 34.2% in March, topping expectations of 28% growth.

Industrial production rose 14.1% in March, missing Reuters’ prediction of 17.2% growth.

The slower growth in industrial production came despite more workers staying put during the Spring Festival and not traveling home for what can be a month-long holiday.

The statistics bureau cautioned in an English-language statement that the spread of Covid-19 globally and the “international landscape is complicated with high uncertainties and instabilities.”

“The foundation for domestic recovery is yet to be consolidated and long-standing structural problems remain prominent with new situations and issues arising from development,” the bureau said.

The urban surveyed unemployment rate ticked lower in March to 5.3%, but that of China’s youngest workers aged 16 to 24 remained a high 13.6%, the data showed.

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