SHANGHAI – China’s economy grew 6.8 percent in the fourth quarter, registering the slowest quarterly growth rate in the last seven years and pegging the country’s full-year 2015 growth at 6.9 percent.
The figures, released Tuesday by the country’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), reflect a slowdown from the growth of 6.9 percent registered in the third quarter.
The slower finish to the year was expected – Premier Li Keqiang said over the weekend that the world’s second biggest economy grew last year by “nearly 7 percent”. China’s economic slowdown is expected to continue.
China’s latest five-year plan, which runs from 2016 to 2020, aims to keep GDP growth at 6.5 percent over that period, according to top Communist Party officials, including Li and President Xi Jinping.
Asian markets appeared to shrug off the news. In early afternoon, most indices were trading in positive territory. The Shanghai market was climbing 2.1 percent while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was up 0.84 percent.
“We do not expect full-year GDP to change the evolving narrative about the weak state of global demand,” analysts at PRC Macro Advisors said in a note, prior to the NBS data release.
Retail sales numbers were up 11.1 percent in December from a year earlier, but less than November’s growth of 11.2 percent.
Industrial output rose 5.9 percent in December from a year earlier, missing forecasts of 6 percent, and slowing from November’s 6.2 percent.
Of bigger concern to economists than the official numbers, is the possibility that those numbers don’t accurately reflect the slowdown of the economy.
“China is growing but only in the low single digits, maybe the 2.2 percent that people in Beijing were talking about last year. And the economy is trending down fast, despite heroic efforts to pump it up,” said Gordon G. Chang, author of “The Coming Collapse of China.”