The first-quarter growth exceeded market estimates of 7.3 percent, China's National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said today.

However, this is the slowest pace at which the Chinese economy has grown in the past 18 months after it registered a 7.4 percent growth in the third quarter of 2012.

The growth slowed compared to the 7.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013. The figure still far outperformed the 6.6-percent growth in the first quarter of 2009, when the global financial crisis wreaked havoc, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

China's GDP registered 7.7 percent last year few notches higher than that of the official target of 7.5 percent, which remained the same for this year too.

The NBS said that preliminary data showed China's gross domestic product reached 12.8213 trillion yuan (USD 2.08 trillion) in the first quarter.

The figures suggest growth in the world's second-largest economy was generally stable and marks a nice beginning for the year of 2014 as Chinese authorities promoted reforms, innovation and restructuring.

Economists said the weaker growth suggested heavier downward pressure on the economy but said the growth rate was still within a reasonable range.

The economic slowdown came amid a generally mild inflation rate in the first quarter, with the consumer price index, the main gauge of inflation, rising 2.4 percent in March.

Earlier data showed the country's exports and imports declined one percent year on year to USD 965.88 billion in the first quarter while power consumption rose 5.4 percent year on year.

However, the March figure picked up steam and rose 7.2 percent.

Wang Jun, a senior researcher at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, said the government has taken significant measures in March targeting tax reductions, simplification of administrative procedures as well as planned to step up railway investment and renovation of shanty towns to improve the economy.

"These measures aim to stabilise growth. I think the economic momentum will increase from the second quarter and there's no need to worry the economy will slide out of control," he said. The NBS data also showed that China's industrial value added expanding to 8.7 per cent year on year in the first quarter of 2014.

Industrial value added in March edged up by 0.81. China uses industrial value added to measure business activities of designated large enterprises each with an annual turnover of at least 20 million yuan (USD 3.26 million).

The figures showed that the value added of state-owned enterprises saw a 4.6 percent growth year on year in March, while that of joint stock companies expanded by 10.1 percent.

Also China's retail sales grew 12 percent year on year to 6.21 trillion yuan (USD 1.01 trillion) in the first quarter of 2014.

In March, retail sales gained 12.2 percent from the same period last year to 1.98 trillion yuan and deducting inflation, the actual growth rate was 10.8 percent, the NBS said.

Retail sales growth in rural areas outpaced that in urban China.

Sales in rural areas rose 12.8 percent in the first quarter from the same period last year.

Retail sales in urban areas climbed 11.8 percent in the same period.

Spending on consumption against the country's gross domestic product was 64.9 percent in the first quarter, up 1.1 percentage points from the same period last year.


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