China's factory output, sales and investment growth at multi-year lows

BEIJING (AFP) - Growth in China's industrial output, retail sales and fixed asset investment all slowed to multi-year lows in January and February, official data showed Wednesday, as the world's second-largest economy expands at its weakest pace in a quarter century.

Industrial output, which measures production at China's factories, workshops and mines, rose 6.8 per cent year-on-year in January and February, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said Wednesday.

That was the lowest since a reading of 5.7 per cent in December 2008, according to previous figures.

Retail sales, a key indicator of consumer spending, gained 10.7 per cent during the first two months from the year before, the NBS said, the worst since 9.4 per cent in February 2006.

And fixed asset investment, a measure of government spending on infrastructure, expanded 13.9 per cent during the period, the NBS added - the lowest since 13.7 per cent for the whole of 2001.

The NBS released statistics covering two months to ease out distortions due to China's Lunar New year holiday last month.

The data are the latest snapshot of the health of the country, a major driver of the global economy but which is in a delicate transition from decades of frequent double-digit annual growth to a new, slower model authorities envision as more sustainable.

China's gross domestic product (GDP) expanded 7.4 per cent last year, its slowest since 1990, and last week leaders lowered the country's 2015 GDP growth target to "approximately seven percent", from last year's objective of about 7.5 per cent.

Data so far this year have indicated a further slowing and the People's Bank of China announced a cut benchmark deposit and lending interest rates in late February for the second time in three months, citing "historically low inflation".