China First-Quarter Growth Expected To Ease To 8.8%

China's economy is expected to grow 8.8% in the first quarter of the year, slowing slightly from the breakneck pace of 9.5% in the previous quarter, state press reported March 29.

A slowing agricultural sector and decreased investment are expected to temper the increase in gross domestic product (GDP), the China Securities Journal said, citing a report by government think-tank the State Information Center. Buttressed by strong exports and continued heavy investment in large infrastructure projects the Chinese economy grew 9.5% last year, its fastest pace since 1996. The State Information Center forecast that China's industrial output would rise 17.2% in the first three months of this year, a 0.5% percentage points drop compared with the same period in 2004.

In the first two months, industrial output was up 16.9% to 903 billion yuan ($109 billion). Meanwhile the consumer price index (CPI), the primary measure of inflation, is forecast to rise 2.7% year-on-year in the first quarter, down 0.1 percentage point from the same period a year ago. The estimate is well below the government's target of about 4% percent. China's CPI rose 3.9% in February from a year earlier, picking up far more sharply than expected after a slowdown in January when it rose only 1.9%.

Copyright 2005 Agence France-Presse

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