China Economic Growth Slows More Than Expected in Third Quarter

China’s economic growth slowed more than expected in the third quarter, as weak industrial output data and the "severe international situation" challenged the government’s efforts to stabilize the economy and reach its growth targets.

Gross domestic product increased 6.5 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier, compared to 6.6 percent in a Bloomberg survey and down from the 6.7 percent pace in the previous quarter. Industrial output rose 5.8 percent last month from a year earlier, versus the forecast of 6 percent, the statistics office said Retail sales increased 9.2 percent in September, compared with the forecast 9 percent Fixed-asset investment climbed 5.4 percent in the first nine months, versus a forecast of 5.3 percent The urban monthly surveyed unemployment rate stood at 4.9 percent at end-September China’s economy faced increasing headwinds in the third quarter, with worsening trade tensions and a slumping stock market hurting confidence in the outlook. Those problems prompted officials to step up stimulus, but the impact of those measures has yet to kick in and more may be needed. National Bureau of Statistics spokesman Mao Shengyong said at a briefing Friday that while the international situation was bringing “downward pressure” on China’s economy, growth is still stable and the nation is on track to achieve the full-year growth target of about 6.5 percent. China’s Factory Heartland Braces for Trump’s Big Tariff Hit The downward pressure on growth is increasing, the statistics bureau said in the statement, with the "extremely complex and severe international situation" and heavy domestic development tasks. The government will work to stabilize employment, finances, exports and foreign investment, the statement said. "The readings are not looking strong. The full year GDP could be 6.5 percent to 6.6 percent, based on the trend," said Zhou Hao, senior emerging markets economist at Commerzbank AG in Singapore. "It will still fulfill the target. But what Guo Shuqing and Yi Gang have said today have undermined the significance of the GDP numbers. Rather it indicated the leadership is worried about the unstable financial market and the low market confidence." Shortly before the data release, China’s top financial officials moved to shore up investor confidence in the country’s tumbling stock market, a rare coordinated show of verbal support that failed to immediately put a floor under the deepest equity sell-off since 2015. China Verbal Intervention Leaves Stock Investors Wanting More The heads of the central bank, banking and insurance regulator and securities regulator all issued statements on Friday voicing their support for the market and promising measures to help ease financial pressures on companies, especially those with a high proportion of pledged shares. The officials stopped short of promising direct intervention. Manufacturing investment growth in the nine months through September accelerated to 8.7 percent over the same period last year, the fastest pace since August 2015. Growth of infrastructure investment fell to 3.3 percent. It’s decelerated in every month since November 2017. Growth of property development investment ticked down to 9.9 percent. "China’s economy is losing steam," said Frederic Neumann, co-head of Asian economics research at HSBC Holdings Plc in Hong Kong. "While it’s easy to blame the trade tussle with the U.S. for this, the deceleration so far is mostly domestic driven, with infrastructure spending contracting and car sales coming off the boil." DM