SHANGHAIChina’s GDP for the first quarter of 2017 hit almost 18.1 trillion yuan, or a little over $2.6 trillion at current exchange, a year-on-year rise of 6.9 percent.

The figures were announced by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on Monday and followed a growth rate of 6.8 percent in the last quarter of 2016.

China’s central government has set a target growth rate of “around 6.5 percent” for 2017, according to its annual work report, so this early data was seen as beating expectations.

A release from the NBS gives credit for China’s strong economic start to the year to strong consumption trends, more robust factory activity and a period of rebounding exports.

Consumption contributed 77.2 percent of the GDP increase in the first quarter and the service sector rose 7.7 percent on the year in the first quarter. In total, the service sector accounted for 56.5 percent of the overall economy.

“China’s economic structure is improving and new momentum is gathering,” NBS spokesman Mao Shengyong said at a press conference in Beijing, according to local media reports.

“There will be steady reform dividends and the economy has enormous potential in the medium to long term.”

Based on the stronger-than-expected data, investment bank J.P. Morgan raised its 2017 GDP growth forecast for China to 6.7 percent from its previous estimate of 6.6 percent, citing strength across various sectors reflected in the first quarter data.



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