China's economy grew at a faster-than-expected 6.4 percent year-on-year in the first quarter, matching the rate from the fourth quarter of last year, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Wednesday.
Economists said that upbeat readings that were issued bode well for the country to achieve its GDP growth target for the year of between 6 and 6.5 percent, but they cautioned that authorities need to take more measures to ensure that the stable growth trend will be sustained.
China's industrial output was up in the first quarter by 6.5 percent year-on-year, compared with 5.7 percent in the previous quarter, official said.
Fixed-asset investment growth was 6.3 percent in the first quarter, compared with 6.1 percent in the first two months, according to the NBS.
Retail sales increased by 8.3 percent year-on-year in the same period.
"The national economy saw stable performance with growing positive factors and stronger market expectations and confidence, sustaining the momentum of progress in overall stability," Mao Shengyong, an NBS spokesman, said at a news conference.
At the next stage, the country's economic policies must be implemented thoroughly to ensure the trend of stable growth is reinforced, Mao said.
Economists said the sound performance in the first quarter has changed market expectations. "It reflects the great resilience and stability of the Chinese economy," said Wang Jun of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges.
Compared with the first quarter of last year, however, major economic indicators all eased by varying levels.
"While real GDP growth remained unchanged in the first quarter compared with the last quarter of last year, if we look at nominal growth figures, growth eased from 9.15 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018 to 7.84 percent," said Xu Qiyuan, an economist at the Institute of World Economics and Politics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Changes in the nominal figures show that the economy has yet to bottom out but it is already close to a trough, he said.
The growth recovery, so far mainly driven by property investment and production of construction materials, may not be sustainable, and a full, broad-based recovery has yet to come, economists at Nomura Securities said in a research note, warning that could even be a "double dip" in the near term.
"Policymakers might still need to continue their easing stance for a while," it said.
To keep the economy on track, China should adhere to its proactive fiscal policy and prudent monetary policy and properly handle its countercyclical policymaking, said Wang.
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