China's 2013 economic cooldown marks shift to less heady growth

Sun Jan 19, 2014 4:03pm EST
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BEIJING (Reuters) - China's economy likely grew in 2013 at its weakest rate in 14 years due to a deceleration in the fourth quarter as a result of flagging investment and demand, heralding more sober times ahead.

Analysts say the world's second biggest economy could cool further as China's efforts to increase domestic consumption at the expense of exports and investment gather pace this year.

The fourth quarter gross domestic product (GDP) data is due to be released at 10 a.m. (0200 GMT).

The median forecast of 24 economists polled by Reuters showed GDP likely grew 7.6 percent between October and December from a year earlier, easing from 7.8 percent in the previous three months.

That leaves growth in the Chinese economy at 7.6 percent for all of 2013, a low unseen since 1999.

"We expect the Chinese economy to face relatively big downward pressure this year," said Li Wei, an economist at Standard Chartered Bank in Shanghai. "It is still hard for consumption to pick up the slack from investment and exports."

After 30 years of sizzling double-digit economic growth that lifted many millions of Chinese out of poverty but also devastated the environment, China wants to change tack by embracing sustainable and higher-quality development instead.

Any change is expected to come at a cost of more muted economic growth, a price Beijing says it is willing to pay.

And Monday's data should show Beijing has kept its word.   Continued...

Buildings are seen in Beijing's central business district, July 11, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Jason Lee