China's second quarter economic growth seen slipping to three-year low

Thu Jul 5, 2012 3:49am EDT
 
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BEIJING (Reuters) - China's economic growth probably slowed further in the second quarter to 7.6 percent, its worse performance since the 2008/09 financial crisis, as investment, factory output and retail sales weakened across the board.

But analysts are hopeful the world's second-largest economy would have seen the worst between April and June, and that growth would pick up in the third quarter as Beijing further loosens monetary policy and fast-forwards infrastructure spending.

"With the help of sufficient bank financing and a marginally improving property market, we expect an investment-led recovery in economic growth from the third quarter onwards, with 2012 gross domestic product growth still likely reaching 8 percent," said Wang Tao, an economist at UBS.

The median forecast of 21 analysts is for China's economy to expand 7.6 percent in the second quarter, down from 8.1 percent in the first, and the slowest since the first three months of 2009 when growth slid to 6.6 percent.

Economic growth of 7.6 percent would put China just a whisker above its 2012 annual growth target of 7.5 percent, and supports market forecasts that China's economy could grow at its slackest annual pace in 13 years this year at 8.2 percent.

Fixed-asset investment is expected to have risen 20.1 percent in June, steady from May's pace of growth, but down from around 25 percent seen for most of last year.

Consumption is also expected to soften. Retail sales is forecast to expand 13.5 percent, the weakest pace since February 2011. Growth in factory output is estimated to edge up slightly to 9.8 percent, from May's 9.6 percent.

Surprisingly weak outcomes from the data deluge could trigger more selling in riskier assets such as stocks and commodities as investors worry the risk of a "hard landing", or a sharp downturn, in China is rising.

That would harden expectations that Beijing could loosen monetary policy as soon as this month by lowering the reserve requirement ratio, or the amount of cash commercial banks must set aside as reserves at the central bank.   Continued...