China reported third-quarter growth data Thursday that met expectations, but was a tad lower than the second quarter's 6.9 percent expansion.
The country's National Bureau of Statistics said its third-quarter GDP growth was 6.8 percent compared to the same period last year, a day after President Xi Jinping made big promises for the country's economic future during a pivotal leadership meeting.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast China to post a modest drop from the second quarter, with GDP to have grown 6.8 percent in the July-September period due to the government's efforts to cool the property market and cut debt risks.
A statement from the statistics bureau painted steady but positive economic development in the first three quarters. It also highlighted challenges in a complex international environment amid structural changes domestically.
"We've seen the benefits of a synchronized global recovery in play. Exports have been quite buoyant versus last year and that has really given China quite a bit of buffer in terms of reducing the reliance on leverage expansion, reducing the reliance on fixed asset investment," said Helen Zhu, head of China equities at BlackRock.
As China is still an export-sensitive market, the current global recovery will give the rest of the economy "a very serious break" in terms of the growth required to reach targets, Zhu added.
Describing Thursday's data release as unsurprising, BlackRock's Zhu added that Chinese growth is now stable but with a better composition than before as the country continues to reduce borrowing in the corporate sector.
China's statistics bureau said Thursday that September retail sales grew 10.3 percent from a year ago, while final consumption accounts for 64.5 percent of GDP growth in the first three quarters.
On Monday, the People's Bank of China quoted its governor, Zhou Xiaochuan, as saying the world's second-largest economy is likely to post growth of 7 percent in the second half of the year thanks to rapid household spending. First half GDP growth was 6.9 percent.
That is more optimistic than the target China had set earlier this year when premier Li Keqiang said the country was aiming to expand its economy by around 6.5 percent in 2017.
Xi said Wednesday that the world's second-largest economy will move from high-speed to high-quality growth as it pushes ahead with reforms.
Looking forward, China's economy will continue its "managed deceleration" in 2018 as policymakers try to achieve more sustainable growth trajectory, said Ricard Torne, head of economic research at Barcelona-based FocusEconomics.