China Q1 GDP growth slows to 7.4%

China Q1 GDP indicates a 'soft landing': CLSA
China Q1 GDP indicates a 'soft landing': CLSA

China's economy grew an annual 7.4 percent in the first quarter of this year, slowing from a 7.7 percent increase in the last quarter of 2013, data on Wednesday showed.

The gross domestic product (GDP) number was just above analyst expectations in a Reuters' poll for a 7.3 percent increase. Still, the first quarter number marked China's slowest annual growth since the third quarter of 2012, Reuters reported.

"The [GDP] number was little bit better than I had expected," Francis Cheung, head of China and Hong Kong strategy at CLSA, told CNBC. "It's a good sign that the government can lead the economy to a soft landing this year, although I think there are significant risks especially in the second half of this year."

Beijing unveiled a mini-stimulus package earlier this month amid signs of weakness in China's economy – the world's second largest after the U.S. and the biggest in Asia.

Data released at the same time as the GDP number showed China's industrial output rose 8.8 percent in March from a year earlier compared with analyst forecasts for a 9 percent increase.

Retail sales in China rose 12.2 percent in March from a year earlier compared with expectations for a rise of 12.1 percent, while January-to-March fixed asset investment was up 17.6 percent from a year earlier versus market expectations for a 18.1 percent rise.

Commercial and residential buildings stand illuminated at night in the Luohu district of Shenzhen, China.
Brent Lewin | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Asian stocks were mixed following China's data deluge. The Shanghai Composite erased earlier gains to fall 0.2 percent, while Japan's Nikkei index outperformed regional peers, rising over 2 percent.

The Australian dollar briefly rose to a session high of $0.9369 before reversing gains. The currency is sensitive to economic data from China -- Australia's biggest trading partner.