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GDP grows robust 8.5% in first 9 months
( 2003-10-17 14:59) (Agencies)

China's economy roared ahead in the year to the third quarter, recording scorching growth that will fuel concerns that the world's sixth-biggest economy is overheating.

Gross domestic product, a broad gauge of economic activity, rose 9.1 percent between the third quarters of 2002 and 2003, the State Statistical Bureau said in a statement on Friday.

GDP in the first nine months of the year was up 8.5 percent on a year earlier.

But bureau deputy chief Qiu Xiaohua said the economy remained plagued by problems and that unspecified measures were needed following rapid lending and credit growth.

"The economy still has many problems," Qiu said in a statement.

"The difficulty in raising rural incomes that has bedevilled the economy for a long time, the relatively large unemployment pressure and other contradictions are still prominent."

Unbalanced development between investment and consumption, China's cities and villages and industrial output and energy had become more pronounced, Qiu said.

The third quarter figure came in at the high end of analysts' expectations and pointed to a potentially faster growth rate in the fourth quarter, economists said.

The consumer price index, which covers a basket of goods from grain to rents, was 0.7 percent higher in the first nine months than a year earlier, showing inflation was still in manageable territory.

Fixed asset investment, which includes government spending on things like roads and power plants, was up 30.5 percent in the January to September period.

Retail sales continued their rebound from the SARS outbreak earlier this year, showing a 8.6 percent rise in the first nine months from a year earlier.


Seeking to head off resurgent inflation and prevent damaging bubbles in some sectors, authorities have moved to curb lending, have slapped curbs on the buying and building of luxury property and have said they will ease back spending on infrastructure.

But figures released earlier this week gave little sign that recent measures to cool off growth were succeeding.

China's September factory output surged 16.3 percent from a year earlier, driven by industries such as automobiles, metals, computers and machinery.

Some analysts have said the measures to put the economy on a more sustainable footing may fall short and that more specific policies targeting surging sectors such as steel and cement are needed.

China also drew $3.6 billion in foreign investment in September, though that was a 30 percent drop from a year earlier, earlier figures showed.

But contracted investment, an indicator of future trends, was up an annual 36 percent in the first nine months, topping $79 billion.

Foreign investment in China slowed sharply in the wake of the SARS outbreak, but has picked up as foreign firms seek to tap a huge pool of cheap labour and a vast potential market.

Some economists said they expected no let-up in the country's startling growth rates in the near term.

"It's not a big surprise but obviously the economy is growing very strongly," said Yiping Huang, a Citigroup economist in Hong Kong.

"I think there is a probability the fourth quarter might be even stronger. Depending on whether more policy measures are taken trying to cool down the economy, I think it could go to around 9.5 percent".

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