17 May 2024, 09:40

China industrial output picks up, retail sales slow in April

BEIJING, May 17, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - Chinese industrial production picked up in April but consumption slowed, official figures showed Friday, as woes in the property sector and elsewhere continued to weigh on economic recovery.

Industrial output rose 6.7 percent on-year last month, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, building on a 4.5 percent increase in March.

The figure was higher than the 5.5 percent tipped in a Bloomberg forecast of economists.

However, retail sales growth -- China's key gauge of consumer spending -- continued to slow, expanding just 2.3 percent -- down from 3.1 percent in March and lower than forecasts.

The sales figures are "depressed by low consumer prices and further contraction in housing sales", said Dan Wang, chief economist at Hang Seng Bank China.

"Business and consumer confidence will remain low without policy support directly targeting family income and durable goods," she added.

China's economy is charting an uneven economic recovery, with a heavily indebted property market, sluggish consumption and high unemployment -- particularly among youth -- among the challenges facing policymakers.

Official figures show that property prices and sales in the country continued to slip in April, adding further pressure on the debt-ridden real-estate sector.

The central government has recently signalled plans to step up support, announcing earlier this week the sale of an initial batch of long-term sovereign bonds -- a move expected to boost annual growth.

Authorities are set to gather in Beijing on Friday for a key meeting to discuss potential further relief for the ailing property sector, according to Bloomberg News.

Reacting to the latest figures, Zhiwei Zhang, President and Chief Economist at Pinpoint Asset Management said in a note that "the strong manufacturing sector is likely driven by external demand, evidenced by the growth of export volume".

But falling property prices and other macro indicators "may push the policymakers to take stronger actions to boost domestic demand", said Zhang, adding that the likelihood of an interest rate cut in the second quarter is "rising".


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