China's industrial output slows, unemployment rises

Kenny Grant
March 17, 2019

Fixed-asset investment rose 6.1% in the first two months, from 5.9% in 2018.

Job shedding by export-oriented companies led to a jump in the unemployment rate last month, said Li Xiru, an official with the statistics bureau.

After deducting price factors, the indicator grew 7.1 percent in real terms, accelerating from December's 6.6-percent rise, NBS spokesperson Mao Shengyong said at a press conference.

Data released on Thursday showed that refineries' output in China in the first two months of 2019 increased by 6.1 percent compared to past year based on a daily basis record because the emerging privately owned refineries started the operations of their processing facilities.

China combines Janaury and February activity data in an attempt to smooth distortions created by the long Lunar New Year holidays early each year, but some analysts say a clearer picture of the economy may not emerge first-quarter data is released in April.

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China's manufacturers are facing weaker sales at home and overseas, with exports hit by USA tariffs on Chinese goods and cooling global demand.

But fixed-asset investment rose 6.1 percent, while retail sales rose 8.2 percent, both more than expected.

Earlier this week, industry data showed automobile sales in China fell for the eighth consecutive month in February, adding to concerns about weaker consumer confidence. Economists are expecting further easing measures by the Chinese government to spur business activity. Retail sales rose 9 percent from one year earlier to 38.1 trillion yuan (about 5.7 trillion US dollars) in 2018. China's exports to all of its major markets fell across the board last month.

The possibility of having deflation in China is small.

Thursday's data showed sales of appliances and furniture softened considerably early in the year, possibly linked to worries about the cooling property market and a 3.6 percent drop in home sales. Total new bank lending hit a record in 3.23 trillion yuan (US$481 billion) in January. Most of the 70 cities surveyed by the NBS still reported monthly price increases for new homes, though the number was down to 57 from 58 in January. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang last week laid out a lower growth target of 6.0-6.5 percent this year, from 6.6 percent growth in 2018, which was already the slowest pace for nearly three decades.

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