China’s economy expanded a seasonally-adjusted 1.1 percent in the first quarter of 2016 from the fourth quarter of last year, National Bureau of Statistics data showed, the lowest quarterly expansion on record since 2010.
The slower-than-expected quarterly growth rate comes amid other signs the Chinese economy is stabilising in the first quarter, including positive surprises from trade, inflation, output and credit.
Analysts had expected quarterly growth of 1.5 percent for the first quarter, but the statistics bureau did not release quarterly figures when it issued annual figures on Friday.
“The 1.1 percent growth rate clearly illustrates that China’s economy still faces downward pressures,” Zhou Hao, senior economist at Commerzbank, wrote in a research note on Monday.
“If we calculate the seasonally adjusted GDP growth based on the qoq numbers, we find that there is a big gap (0.4 percent point) between headline GDP growth (non-seasonally adjusted) and the seasonally adjusted GDP growth. As economists, we always prefer the seasonally adjusted qoq numbers, which better tell the underlying growth momentum,” he added.
China’s economy grew 6.7 percent year-on-year in the first quarter in 2016, and 6.9 percent for the whole of 2015. That is the slowest rate since 2009, but the pace applies to a much larger economy – around $10 trillion in 2015.
Over the weekend, the statistics bureau also revised 2015 quarterly growth figures for three quarters.
In the first quarter of 2015, quarterly growth was revised upwards to 1.4 percent from 1.3 percent. In the second quarter, it was revised downwards to 1.8 percent from 1.9 percent, while in the fourth quarter, quarterly growth was revised downwards to 1.5 percent from 1.6 percent.
The 2015 third quarter quarterly economic growth figure remained unchanged.
The statistics bureau also revised quarterly growth figures for 2014 in two quarters. For the first quarter, the quarterly figure was revised upwards to 1.7 percent from 1.6 percent, and in the third quarter, the figure was revised upwards to 1.9 percent from 1.8 percent.
The 2014 quarterly economic data for the second and fourth quarters remained unchanged.
Some China watchers, nevertheless, suspect that real growth levels could be much lower than what the official data suggest.