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China GDP – what’s in store?

Expect China Q2 GDP at 7.4%: Expert

The release of China's second quarter growth figures on Wednesday is the key event risk for markets this week and while there are still trouble spots for the world's second largest economy, analysts broadly believe growth will pick up in the months ahead.

According to an analyst poll by Reuters, gross domestic product (GDP) growth is expected to come at 7.4 percent from the year ago period, unchanged from the first quarter which marked the country's slowest annual growth since third quarter of 2012.

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HSBC expects the reading to come in a shade lower, at 7.3 percent, but notes that growth prospects going forward look much brighter.

"It's still probably a bit early in Q2 to see signs of the economy bottoming or picking up. We expect the pick-up to take place more in Q3 than Q2," said John Zhu, China economist at HSBC, who expects the Q2 figure to be dragged down by weak investment.

But growth should rebound further by the end of the year; Zhu expects fourth quarter GDP at 7.6 percent, bringing full year growth to 7.4 percent.

"We think growth is likely to be driven by stronger domestic infrastructure investment as well as a slightly better net exports contribution, as global demand recovers in the second half of the year," Zhu added.

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Other analysts were also positive about Chinese growth coming in broadly in line with the government's official target of 7.5 percent for 2014.

"At the end of the first quarter we were starting to get a little negative on China and we were thinking towards that 7 percent [level] and the market was pricing towards a softer growth pattern," said Toby Lawson, managing director at Newedge, who expects a 7.4 percent headline figure on Wednesday.

"But since then [Chinese] officials have accelerated some infrastructure spending and loosened some credit capabilities and it's [growth] certainly stabilized to the extent that… the 7.5 target for the year looks to be in line," he said.

Baked potatoes for sale in Dashilan Market in Xuanwu, Beijing.
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Beijing has introduced a drip-feed of stimulus measures in recent months, in an attempt to reboot the economy that has slowed in recent years. As a result, recent Chinese economic data from manufacturing to industrial output and retail sales have showed improvement, as the targeted measures, known as "mini stimulus" worked their magic.

However, Lawson added his voice to a growing chorus by analysts warning about China's weakening property market, which makes up around 25 percent of the country's economy. Last week, an independent survey by private data provider Soufun showed house prices in 100 major Chinese cities fell 0.5 percent on month in June, the second consecutive month of declines.

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"The property sector is the one to keep your eye on. Its performance will be slightly under some of the other sectors like exports. That's probably the weakest element of the overall China story," he added.

Analysts at Societe Generale agree.

"The dark cloud of the housing downturn is likely to hover over the economy for a while longer. In such a scenario, we hardly expect any sustained or sizable growth acceleration," the bank said in a recent report.

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Although SocGen sees second quarter growth surpassing expectations at 7.5 percent due to recent improvement in production data, it doesn't expect the momentum to last.

"In quarter on quarter terms, we see growth acceleration running out of steam in late Q3 and deceleration resuming in Q4, albeit modestly," they said, adding that they forecast around 7.3 percent growth for the full year.