China October factory output growth slows, retail sales miss expectations

A Chinese employee working on a production line of automobiles at a factory in Changchun.
A Chinese employee working on a production line of automobiles at a factory in Changchun.PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China's industrial output cooled last month, while fixed asset investment and retail sales grew slower than expected, suggesting the economy may be loosing some steam as the government cracks down on debt risks and pollution.

Industrial output rose 6.2 per cent in October from a year earlier, missing analysts' estimates of a 6.3 per cent gain and down from a 6.6 per cent increase in September.

Fixed-asset investment growth slowed to 7.3 per cent in the January-October period, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said on Tuesday (Nov 14). Analysts had expected an increase of 7.4 per cent.

China's economy has surprised financial markets with robust growth of nearly 6.9 per cent in the first nine months of this year, underpinned by a recovery in its manufacturing and industrial sectors thanks to a government-led infrastructure spending spree, a resilient property market and unexpected strength in exports.

That has supported the world economy as the Asian giant has continued to hoover up commodities and consumer goods, helping to stoke underlying global demand for cars and smartphones to TVs and industrial products.

But the world's second-largest economy has started to show signs of fatigue, with momentum seen slackening further as Beijing's crackdown on debt risks curbs demand and tighter pollution rules hits factory output.

China's exports and import growth both eased in October, while the smog war dragged on manufacturing activity last month.

To be sure, data has yet to point to any marked deceleration in economic growth, and analysts see only a modest loss of momentum over the next few months. Indeed, China's producer prices were surprisingly strong in October, despite muted activity during a week-long golden week holiday.

Growth of private investment slowed to 5.8 per cent from 6 per cent in January-September.

Retail sales gained 10 per cent in October on-year, slower than the expected 10.4 per cent rise. Retail sales growth has hovered in the 10 to 11 per cent range for the last two years in a sign of resilient domestic demand.

Analysts had forecast they would rise 10.4 pe rcent, slightly higher than the prior month.

Many analysts expect that even with some loss of momentum in the fourth quarter, China's economic growth will easily meet or beat the government's full-year target of around 6.5 per cent.