The Chinese economy remained stable in January and February amid brighter market expectations, figures released on March 14 by the National Bureau of Statistics show.
Analysts said economic expansion may pick up in the next few months after the effects of the country’s bolstering measures take effect.
Fixed-asset investment growth was 6.1 percent year-on-year in the combined January to February period, compared with 5.9 percent for the whole of 2018, the NBS said on March 14.
Retail sales increased by 8.2 percent year-on-year in the same period, unchanged from December, while industrial output went up 5.3 percent.
This year, the Spring Festival holiday arrived 11 days earlier than last year, thus impairing the comparability of industrial output figures between the two years, said NBS spokesman Mao Shengyong. Last year’s holiday fell later, so its full effect was not felt during the two-month period.
After deducting the holiday disturbance, industrial output for the January-February period went up by 6.1 percent year-on-year, higher than 5.7 percent in December, Mao said.
“The national economy remained stable with growing momentum in the first two months.”
Market expectations also brightened, Mao said, citing indexes of consumer confidence and new orders in the manufacturing sector that rallied in February.
Cheng Shi, chief economist at ICBC International, said recent supportive policies have shored up confidence in economic prospects, as signaled by the stock market’s upward trend and the stability of the yuan since the beginning of the year.
“The pathway from brightened expectations to the revival of economic fundamentals should be smoothed by policies that continue to support the economy,” Cheng said, adding that expansion speeds of different sectors may stabilize one after another starting in the first quarter.
The Chinese economy slowed in the fourth quarter of 2018, registering 6.6 percent growth for the whole year, the NBS said. This year’s GDP growth target was set between 6 and 6.5 percent, according to the Government Work Report.
“Tax and fee cuts as well as supportive monetary policies are expected to help the speed of economic expansion hit bottom and pick up this year,” said Liu Chunsheng, an associate professor at the Central University of Finance and Economics in Beijing.
However, external uncertainties－ranging from trade frictions to downside risks from major economies－may extend the process of stabilizing growth, Liu said.
“To deal with external uncertainties, it is imperative for China to further vitalize the domestic market, especially through market-driven reforms such as streamlining administrative regulations and strengthening intellectual property protection,” Liu said.
The consumer price index, a main gauge of inflation, rose 1.5 percent year-on-year in February, compared with 1.7 percent in January, the NBS said.
During the January-February period, the producer price index, which measures factory-gate prices, edged up by 0.1 percent year-on-year.
“February’s decrease in CPI growth was mainly due to the disturbance from the Spring Festival holiday, and we expect the figure to recover to about 1.8 percent in March,” said Wang Qing, a researcher at Beijing-based Golden Credit Rating International.
Wang expects inflation to remain moderate in the next few months, leaving room for monetary authorities to adopt countercyclical policies.