* China Q3 growth may slow to 7.4 pct, weakest since Q1 2009
* Sept factory output growth seen at 9.0 pct vs 8.9 pct in Aug
* Sept retail sales growth seen at 13.2 pct, steady vs August
* Jan-Sept fixed-asset investment growth seen steady
* Further policy stimulus expected
By Kevin Yao
BEIJING, Oct 9 (Reuters) - China's annual economic growth probably slowed for a seventh straight quarter in the July-September period to the weakest level since the depths of the global financial crisis, a Reuters poll showed, reinforcing the case for further policy stimulus.
The median forecast of 26 analysts is for China's economy to expand 7.4 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier, down from 7.6 percent in the second, and the slowest expansion since the first three months of 2009, when growth slid to 6.6 percent.
The survey result was broadly in line with a Reuters poll conducted last month, which showed that growth in the world's second-largest economy will slow further in the third quarter before regaining some momentum in the final quarter as the impact of earlier policy easing steps fully kick in.
"We expect the third-quarter GDP growth to weaken further from Q2 as the impact from a mix of policy measures that have been rolled out since the second quarter might be delayed towards the end of the year," said Lian Ping, chief economist at the Bank of Communications in Shanghai.
"The government is likely to step up its policy fine-tuning, but we don't expect any aggressive policy steps," he said.
Under the banner of policy fine-tuning, the People's Bank of China cut interest rates twice in June and July and lowered banks' reserve requirement ratio (RRR) three times since late 2011.
Meanwhile, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the country's top economic planner, has been fast-tracking infrastructure projects to bolster investment growth -- a key driver of economic expansion.
Fixed-asset investment is expected to have risen 20.2 percent in the January-September period from a year earlier, unchanged from the first eight months but down from around 25 percent seen for most of last year.
Consumption is also expected to hold steady, with retail sales in September forecast to expand 13.2 percent from a year earlier. Growth in factory output is estimated to edge up slightly to 9.0 percent from August's 8.9 percent.
China's economic growth is expected to weaken to 7.8 percent this year, the International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday as it warned of risks to emerging Asia if the euro zone crisis worsens and the United States does not avoid its "fiscal cliff".
Premier Wen Jiabao has repeatedly assured investors that China's economy is on track to meet the official growth target of 7.5 percent set for 2012.
The GDP and activity data will be released at 0200 GMT on Oct. 18. Surprisingly weaker readings from the data deluge could prompt investors to cut exposure to riskier assets such as stocks and commodities.
It could also ratchet up market expectations that Beijing will further loosen monetary policy by lowering the reserve requirement ratio -- the amount of cash commercial banks must set aside as reserves at the central bank.
China will keep monetary policy flexible and pre-emptive to support activity in an economy still facing relatively big downward pressure, central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan said in an article published this week.
But the central bank, fearful of a flare-up in property prices and consumer inflation, has in recent weeks refrained from cutting interest rates or RRR, opting to inject short-term cash into money markets to help ease credit strains.
Some analysts expect the central bank to lower the RRR ahead of next month's Communist Party congress -- where a new generation of leaders will be unveiled.
"In the run up to the party congress, we expect the government to focus on creating a conducive policy environment for the power handover. As such, we believe the government will likely cut RRR in the days or weeks ahead, as the most important signal in the mild stimulus cycle," analysts at Mizuho said in a research note.
GDP FAI Industrial Retail sales Output ANZ 7.4 20.1 8.8 13.0 Bank of Communications 7.5 20.3 9.0 13.5 BBVA 7.4 20.3 8.6 13.3 BOC International 7.4 20.0 8.8 13.4 BofAML 7.4 20.2 9.0 13.2 CDB Securities 7.5 20.3 8.9 13.3 China Construction Bank 7.7 20.1 9.1 13.0 CICC 7.4 20.0 8.8 12.9 CITIC Securities 7.5 20.4 9.0 13.4 Deutsche Bank 7.3 19.9 9.2 12.7 Everbright Securities 7.5 20.3 9.0 13.5 Goldman Sachs 7.4 20.2 8.7 13.2 Huarong Securities 7.4 20.3 8.8 13.1 Hwabao Trust 7.3 20.2 9.0 13.4 Industrial Bank 7.4 20.0 8.7 13.1 ING Financial Markets 7.1 20.2 9.0 13.1 JPMorgan Chase 7.4 20.0 9.0 12.5 Mizuho Securities 7.4 20.2 8.8 13.1 OCBC 7.6 20.3 9.2 13.3 Peking First Advisory 7.4 20.1 8.9 13.2 Pingan Securities 7.3 20.1 9.1 13.3 Sealand Securities 7.4 20.3 9.1 13.4 Shanghai Securities 7.7 20.6 8.8 13.0 Shenyin & Wanguo 7.6 20.2 10.0 ~ Societe Generale 7.4 20.3 9.0 12.9 UBS 7.3 20.0 8.6 13.4 _________________________ ________ ______ ____________ ___________ Median 7.4 20.2 9.0 13.2 High 7.7 20.6 10.0 13.5 Low 7.1 19.9 8.6 12.5
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(Reporting by Kevin Yao; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)
Keywords: CHINA ECONOMY/GDP