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China's economic growth slows, trade slumps

China's leaders face new pressure to stimulate a slowing economy after growth fell to its lowest since 1991, hurt by weak trade and efforts to cool a credit boom.

The world's second-largest economy expanded 7.5 percent over a year earlier in the three months ending in June, down from the previous quarter's 7.7 percent, data showed Monday. Growth in factory production, investment and other indicators weakened.

The fifth straight quarter of growth below 8 percent is "a clear sign of distress," said IHS Global Insight analyst Xianfang Ren in a report. With investment weak, she said the economy might be "at risk of stalling." Analysts said growth could fall further, adding to pressure on communist leaders who took power last year. They are trying to shift China from reliance on exports and investment to slower, more sustainable growth based on domestic consumption.

Chinese leaders are likely to launch new stimulus to hit their 7.5 percent growth target for the year, said Credit Agricole CIB economist Dariusz Kowalczyk. He said that might include weakening the Chinese currency to spur exports or pumping money into the economy through higher public works spending.

The ruling party's 7.5 percent growth target for the year is stronger than forecasts for the United States, Europe and Japan, but China's weakest performance since 1991. Finance Minister Lou Jiwei appeared to try to lower expectations last week when he told reporters in Washington that growth as low as 6.5 percent would be tolerable.

A decline in Chinese economic activity could have global repercussions, denting revenues for suppliers of commodities and industrial components such as Australia, Brazil and Southeast Asia. Lower Chinese demand already has depressed prices for iron ore and other raw materials.

A stimulus would temporarily set back Beijing's reform plans by reinforcing reliance on investment to generate jobs.

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