China's industrial output grew at the slowest rate in 17 years

  • Fixed-asset investment rose 6.1 percent, while retail sales rose 8.2 percent, both more than expected.
  • China combines January and February activity data in an attempt to smooth distortions created by the long Lunar New Year holidays early each year, but some analysts say a clearer picture of the economy may not emerge first-quarter data is released in April.


Employees working on a production line of clothes for export at a factory in Xiayi county, in Shangqiu in China's central Henan province.
AFP | Getty Images
Employees working on a production line of clothes for export at a factory in Xiayi county, in Shangqiu in China's central Henan province.

China's industrial output grew 5.3 percent in the first two months of this year, the slowest pace of expansion in 17 years, official data showed on Thursday.

But fixed-asset investment rose 6.1 percent, while retail sales rose 8.2 percent, both more than expected.

Analysts polled by Reuters had predicted industrial output growth would slow to 5.5 percent in January-February from December's 5.7 percent gain.

Investment growth had been expected to edge up slightly to 6.0 percent, from 5.9 percent in 2018.

Private-sector fixed-asset investment, which accounts for about 60 percent of overall investment in China, rose 7.5 percent in the same period, compared with an 8.7 percent rise in 2018, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed.

Retail sales had been expected to rise 8.1 percent, easing marginally from December's 8.2 percent pace.

China combines January and February activity data in an attempt to smooth distortions created by the long Lunar New Year holidays early each year, but some analysts say a clearer picture of the economy may not emerge first-quarter data is released in April.

China's economic growth cooled to 6.6 percent last year, the slowest in nearly three decades, and it is expected to lose more momentum in the next few months.

Beijing is rolling out more support measures to avert a sharper slowdown, but many analysts do not expect activity to convincingly bottom out until summer.