China's industrial output rose 5.1 percent year on year in the first quarter, but the growth is 11.3 percentage points lower from the first quarter of 2008, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said Thursday.
March alone saw a rise of 8.3 percent, up from 3.8 percent in the first two months.
China's industrial output, which measures activity in the nation's millions of factories and workshops, rose 12.9 percent in 2008.
Zuo Xiaolei, chief economist with Galaxy Securities, said the government's stimulus packages were taking effect.
NBS spokesman Li Xiaochao said first-quarter output of heavy industry grew 4.5 percent from a year earlier and that of light industry 6.8 percent.
Eastern China posted a year-on-year industrial output growth of 3.7 percent, central areas 5.2 percent and western regions 11.8 percent.
Zuo Xiaolei said the higher growth in the western regions was because of the massive investment for reconstruction after last year's May 12 earthquake, while weakening exports hurt production in eastern areas.
China's exports fell for the fifth month in a row to $90.29 billion in March, down 17.1 percent from a year earlier, the General Administration of Customs said last week.
Li said the financial crisis eroded China's exports, which drove down company profits.
Total profits of the major industrial enterprises fell 37.3 percent to 219.1 billion yuan ($32.08 billion) in January and February, he said. Of the 39 major industrial sectors, 23 reported profit falls, and four suffered losses.
Industrial output rose 11 percent year on year in February due to more working days this year than in February 2008.
Yuan Gangming, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said it was more reasonable to compare the March figure with the 3.8 percent rise in the first two months.
However, he said the figure might not indicate accelerated industrial production. "It is still uncertain whether industrial output would continue upward in April," he added.
He said power consumption continued to fall for most of March and early April.
According to the State Grid Corporation of China, power consumption rose 1.3 percent year on year in the first 10 days of March, but reversed to fall 2.2 percent in the second 10 days, and continued to drop by 2.7 percent in the last 10 days.
The first 10 days of April posted a year-on-year drop of about 3.57 percent.
Falling material prices, especially prices of steel and non-ferrous metals, also trimmed profits for industrial enterprises, he added.
China's producer price index (PPI), a major measure of inflation at the wholesale level, fell 4.6 percent in the first quarter year on year, according to the NBS.