Chinese economy expands 9.7 percent in first quarter of 2011 (Lead)

April 15th, 2011 - 1:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, April 15 (IANS) China’s economy expanded 9.7 percent in the first quarter of 2011 from a year earlier, and 2.1 percent from the previous quarter to 9,631.1 billion yuan ($1,459.3 billion), the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said Friday.

“The national economy has a good beginning given the steady and relatively fast growth,” Xinhua quoted NBS spokesperson Sheng Laiyun as saying.

In the fourth quarter of 2010, the economy grew 9.8 percent year on year from 9.6 percent in the third quarter, after slowing down from 11.9 percent in the first quarter and 10.3 percent in the second.

Consumer prices rose 5.4 percent in March from a year ago, a 32-month high, said the NBS. The country aims to hold inflation at around 4 percent for the full year.

Retail sales, which measure consumer spending in China, rose 16.3 percent year on year in the first quarter, compared to 15.8 percent during the first two months.

NBS spokesperson Sheng Laiyun said the retail sales of March grew 17.4 percent from a year earlier, and edged up 1.34 percent from February.

Urban retail sales of consumer goods grew 16.4 percent to 3.7248 trillion yuan in the first quarter, while retail sales in rural areas rose 15.8 percent to 567.4 billion yuan from a year earlier, Sheng said.

“Although market sales have witnessed steady growth, the sales of products associated with housing and transport have grown less strongly than a year earlier, such as furniture and automobiles,” he said.

The State Council, or China’s Cabinet, has pledged to continue the country’s prudent monetary policy to rein in soaring prices.

“Judging from the inflation situation in the first quarter, we are still under great pressure of price hikes,” said Premier Wen Jiabao at an executive meeting of the cabinet Wednesday. He added: “We should never lower our guard.”

Consumer spending, regarded as one of the three engines driving China’s economic growth, contributed to about 37 percent of China’s 39.8 trillion yuan of GDP last year.

As for foreign trade and investment, both accelerated in the first quarter.

The country’s foreign trade volume surged 29.5 percent to $800.3 billion,
with a trade deficit of $1 billion in the first quarter.

Urban fixed asset investment rose 25 percent to 3.9465 trillion yuan, with investment in the property sector rising 34.1 percent year on year to 884.6 billion yuan, according to the NBS.

China has set its GDP target for 2011 at 8 percent.

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