IMF cuts China 2013 growth forecast to 7.6%

BEIJING (AFP) - The International Monetary Fund (IMF) cut its 2013 growth forecast for China to 7.6 per cent on Tuesday, in the latest acknowledgement of slower expansion in the world's second-biggest economy.

In its new World Economic Outlook report the Fund also reduced its prediction for next year, expecting gross domestic product (GDP) growth to come in at 7.3 per cent.

The revised 2013 forecast is marginally higher than that of the World Bank, which said on Monday it expects China to achieve the government's official target of 7.5 per cent.

China's slowing growth "will affect many other economies, notably the commodity exporters among the emerging market and developing economies", the Washington-based IMF said.

The country has enjoyed decades of double-digit growth fuelled by exports and big ticket investment projects.

But it saw its slowest performance in 13 years in 2012, growing 7.7 per cent, down from 9.3 per cent in 2011 and 10.4 per cent in 2010.

Beijing's new leadership under President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang has stressed the need to retool the economy's growth model to one where private, consumer-led demand drives sustained - albeit lower - expansion.

Speaking at an Asia-Pacific business forum in Indonesia on Monday, Mr Xi described the economy as being on a smooth and controlled slowdown, calling it "an intended result of our own regulatory initiatives".

The IMF's new 2013 forecast is a reduction from the 7.75 per cent it predicted in May, itself a cut from 8.0 per cent. The latest 2014 estimate compares with a previous figure of 7.7 per cent.

Chinese authorities are moving away from past "credit-fuelled investment" policies that saw investment at near 50 per cent of GDP in 2012 and credit at almost 200 per cent, the IMF said.

"Although this expansion spurred financial deepening and provided a timely global growth impulse after the Great Recession, policymakers are now reluctant to continue stimulating the economy given the risks of inefficiency, deteriorating asset quality, and financial instability," the Fund said.

The authorities were attempting "to rein in the flow of credit, including through shadow banks, preferring more targeted and limited support (such as to small businesses) over widespread stimulus", it added.

"These actions are consistent with their intention to move to a more balanced and sustainable growth path."

Beijing's moves to rebalance the economy "may be accompanied by lower medium-term growth than achieved by China in recent decades".

However, the IMF said this was "a trade-off worth making, since it is likely to usher in permanently higher living standards than under the extension of the status quo".

It added that its global forecasts are made on the assumption that "Chinese authorities do not enact major stimulus and accept somewhat lower growth".

China's own outlook for this year of 7.5 per cent is the same as it predicted for last year. The government in Beijing usually announces a conservative number that it regularly surpasses.

The first half of this year saw analyst concerns about the economy spike after an expected rebound failed to materialise. In January-March growth came in at 7.7 per cent, followed by expansion of 7.5 per cent in the second quarter.

But a string of upbeat data in recent months, including strong numbers for exports and industrial output, have suggested growth for the three months through September may show renewed vigour.