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April retail sales, industrial production, investment data

Pictured here is a BYD factory producing new energy-powered trucks in Huai’an, China, on February 21, 2024.

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BEIJING — China reported data Friday that pointed to slower growth on the consumer side while industrial activity remained robust.

Retail sales rose by 2.3% in April from a year ago, the National Bureau of Statistics said. That was less than the 3.8% increase forecast by a Reuters poll, and slower than the 3.1% pace reported in March.

Industrial production rose by 6.7% in April from a year ago, beating expectations for 5.5% growth.

That was also a marked pickup from 4.5% in March.

But fixed asset investment rose by 4.2% for the first four months of the year, lower than the 4.6% expected increase.

Real estate investment steepened its pace of decline, and was down 9.8% year-on-year for the first four months of 2024.

Infrastructure and manufacturing investment during that time both slowed their pace slightly from the level reported as of March.

The urban unemployment rate in April was 5%. The bureau has previously said it would publish the breakdown by age in the days following the overall data release.

The statistics bureau said in a statement that the April figures were affected by the May 1 Labor Day holiday and last year’s high base. 

“Major indicators of industry, exports, employment and prices improved overall, with new driving forces maintain[ing] rapid growth,” the bureau said.

Mixed picture so far

China was also scheduled Friday to kick off a six-month program for issuing decades-long bonds to fund strategic projects. Oxford Economics expects the bulk of any economic impact won’t be felt until the first half of next year.

Other data released for April have pointed to a mixed picture for growth.

Exports grew year-on-year in April, up by 1.5% and in line with expectations, while imports grew far more than expected, up by 8.4%.

In another indication of stabilizing domestic demand, consumer prices ticked up last month.

But a measure of prices at the factory level continued to decline. New loan data for April slumped to levels not seen in at least two decades, due largely to changes in data measurement but also reflecting sluggish demand from businesses and households in borrowing for the future.

A prolonged slump in the real estate sector has yet to show signs of significant turnaround, with many pre-sold apartments still under construction. More cities have eased housing purchase restrictions in the last few weeks in a bid to bolster sales.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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