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China's 2019 GDP growth slows to 29-year low

The Chinese economy grew in 2019 at the slowest rate in 29 years, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed as the agency warned about increasing sources of instability and risk and "mounting downward pressure" on growth.

China's GDP grew at an annual rate of 6.1% in 2019, preliminary estimates from the statistics bureau showed. The reading is within the government's target growth for the year of between 6% and 6.5%, but marked the slowest expansion for the world's second-largest economy since 1990, when the country grew just 3.9%.

The growth rate met forecasts by Fitch Ratings and the International Monetary Fund, while it came in below the 6.2% increase expected by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, S&P Global Ratings and Moody's.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He said a day before the data release that the country was expected to register GDP growth of more than 6.0% in 2019.

The Chinese economy grew 6.0% year over year in the fourth quarter of 2019, the same rate as in the previous quarter. The consensus estimate of economists polled by Econoday was for annual growth of 5.9% for the period.

"External headwinds should ease further in the coming quarters thanks to the "phase one" trade deal and a recovery in global growth," said Martin Rasmussen, China economist at Capital Economics, in a note.

"But we think this will be offset by a renewed slowdown in domestic demand, triggering further monetary easing by the People's Bank of China," Rasmussen added.

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'Stabilization'

A period of trade calm is likely to provide some support for business sentiment and investment, wrote Robert Carnell, chief economist and head of research for Asia-Pacific at ING. "2020 will likely be about stabilization, rather than 'recovery,'" he added.

Industrial production in China rose 6.9% year over year in December 2019, accelerating from the 6.2% increase in the previous month and beating the Econoday consensus estimate of a 5.9% rise. For full year 2019, industrial production climbed 5.7%.

Growth in retail sales remained unchanged at 8.0% on an annual basis in December 2019, exceeding the Econoday expectations of a 7.8% rise. Total retail sales increased by 8.0% in 2019 to 41.165 trillion yuan, with online retail sales recording annual growth of 16.5% to 10.632 trillion yuan.

Fixed asset investment, excluding that by rural households, rose 5.4% year over year in 2019 to 55.148 trillion yuan, compared with market expectations of a 5.2% rise. Investment in high-tech manufacturing rose 17.7%, while that in high-tech services grew 16.5%.

The unemployment rate in urban areas came in at 5.2% in December 2019. The number of employed people in urban areas came in at 13.52 million in full year 2019.

As of Jan. 16, US$1 was equivalent to 6.88 Chinese yuan.