China’s retail sales, industrial data soundly beat expectations

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Citizens buy food at a street stall in Chengdu, Sichuan province, China, on June 22, 2021.

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BEIJING — China reported Tuesday better-than-expected growth in retail sales, fixed asset investment and industrial production to start the year.

The data releases combine the two months of January and February as is the Chinese statistics bureau custom to avoid distortions from the Lunar New Year holiday, which can fall in either month depending on the year.

Retail sales grew by 6.7% year-on-year, topping expectations of analysts polled by Reuters for growth of 3% from a year ago. Furniture was the only category within retail sales to decline, down 6%. Petroleum products and gold, silver and jewelry saw the greatest increases.

Fixed asset investment rose by 12.2%, well above the forecast for a 5% increase.

Industrial production also beat, up by 7.5% versus expectations of 3.9% growth.

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The unemployment rate in cities edged up to 5.5% in February from January, with that of those aged 16 to 24 remaining far higher at 15.3%.

“The national economy sustained steady recovery, the production demand grew fast, employment and prices were generally stable, new driving forces continued to develop, and high-quality development made new progress,” the statistics bureau said in a statement.

Last week, China’s central government announced an official GDP target of “around 5.5%” for the year.

Many economists said the target is ambitious, especially after a resurgence in Covid cases forced factories to halt production.

The new restrictions hit major cities like Shenzhen and Shanghai in the worst wave of the pandemic the country has seen since the initial shock just over two years ago.

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