China's economy grew by more than forecast in the first six months

Ivan Schwartz
July 17, 2017

The government targets slightly slower growth of about 6.5% this year.

These stronger-than-expected figures come amid the introduction of policies to reduce debt levels (and, by extension, investment), as well as property controls to subdue a potential bubble. "Growth momentum has stayed pretty high and the authorities have really tamped down the pressures on the capital outflow", said Stephen Schwartz, head of Asia-Pacific sovereign ratings at Fitch. The president said at the National Financial Work Conference on the weekend he wanted to give China's central bank a bigger role in dealing with risks in the financial system. The retreat of USA long-term interest rates since early 2017 and the Fed's commitment to a gradual pace of interest rate hikes are maintaining supportive monetary conditions for emerging market growth.

Some analysts are predicting that tighter lending rules may not have the cooling effect that many expected.

It is "laying a solid foundation for achieving the annual target", he said.

"It's a cyclical recovery story on strong exports and real estate", said Junheng Li, the founder of JL Warren Capital LLC, a China-focused research firm in NY.

Despite efforts to slow down the housing market, property investment grew by 8.5% in the first half, which is up from the same period in 2016.

The strong data suggest across-the-board robustness in the industrial sector in June, said Zhu Haibin, chief China economist at JPMorgan Chase & Hong Kong.

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The keyword, "risk", appeared the most in the meeting notes, mentioned 31 times, while "regulation" was mentioned 28 times, according to an analysis by Credit Suisse. Societe Generale SA boosted its estimate to 6.7 percent from 6.6 percent while Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. lifted its projection to 6.7 percent from 6.5 percent.

On a quarterly basis, the growth improved to 1.7% in the second quarter from 1.3% during the first quarter this year.

China's major stock indexes recouped sharp early losses on Monday as latest growth data from the world's second largest economy surprised on the upside, buoying earnings prospects for the country's companies.

That is mostly a outcome of its efforts to reduce debt.

The agency also published the figures of real estate investment from January to June, which showed a decelerating trend as it is 0.6 points less than the figure recorded during the first quarter of the year, although it expanded by 8.5 per cent year-on-year.

"China's crackdown on low-end steel has left a capacity gap in the market", she said.

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