China's economic growth was little changed at the start of 2018, according to the latest set of official data, but some economists believed that underlying trends continued to point towards further slowing as the year progressed.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the rate of growth in the Asian giant's gross domestic product was steady at a 6.8% year-on-year clip over the first three months of 2018, as economists had forecast.

Yet like others, economists at Capital Economics believed the government data needed to be taken with a 'grain of salt'.

Thus, according to their own China Activity Proxy Index, the rate of expansion had in fact slowed from a 6.0% pace in the third quarter of 2017 to 5.2% over the last three months of 2017 and then again to 4.8% in the first quarter of 2018.

But in any case, the remaining official activity data published on Wednesday was not especially strong.

For example, growth in fixed asset investment slowed from a year-to-date clip of 7.9% in February to 7.5% for last month (consensus: 7.7%).

In terms of quarterly rates of change meanwhile, investment picked-up from a 6.4% clip to 7.5%, but according to Capital Economics's Julian Evans-Pritchard that was mainly the result of a rebound in property investment.

Similarly, industrial production slowed from a 7.2% pace year-to-date in February to 6.0% year-on-year (consensus: 6.3%) in March.

For the whole of the first quarter on the other hand, industrial output was up by 6.8%, versus the 6.2% pace seen over the previous three months.

Capital Economics had reservations about the reliability of the IP data too, but admitted that based on its own estimates it had also grown.

“While we don't think China's economy is expanding as rapidly as the official figures claim, there is broader evidence to suggest that a recovery in industry did prevent growth from slipping too much last quarter,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard.

Lastly, retail sales outpaced expectations, increasing at a 10.1% on the year for March, which was up from 9.7% year-to-date for the first two months of the year and ahead of economists' forecasts for an increase of 9.7%.


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