China's industrial production rose 16.4 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2008. The increase was 1.9 percentage points less than in the same period of 2007, said the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on Wednesday.
The economy had maintained steady, fast growth since the beginning of the year, despite the unusually severe winter weather and the spreading global credit crisis, said Li Xiaochao, spokesman of the NBS.
Economic growth slowed to 10.6 percent in the first quarter, compared with 11.7 percent in the same period of last year.
Analysts attributed the slowdown in industrial output growth to weakening exports and the worst winter weather in half a century. There was also a slowdown in corporate profit growth.
In the first two months of this year, the most recent period for which statistics are available, profits of large industrial enterprises rose 16.5 percent to 348.2 billion yuan ($49.7 billion).
The rise was 27.3 percentage points less than the same period of last year.
According to the NBS, industrial output expanded 15.4 percent in January and February from the same period last year. That compared with a growth rate of 18.5 percent in the first two months of 2007.
"The slowdown in the first two months was caused by the snow havoc and weakened exports. In March, it was mainly a result of the sluggish global economy," said Zhuang Jian, a senior economist with the Asian Development Bank mission in China.
The industrial output of state-owned and state-held enterprises rose 12.9 percent, that of collective enterprises rose 11.6 percent and that of private-sector share-holding enterprises rose 18.9 percent, NBS said.
The growth of enterprises funded by foreign investors or investors from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan provinces was 14.3 percent.
The year-on-year growth of heavy industry was 17.3 percent, while light industry expanded 14.7 percent.
By product, power and coal rose 14 percent and 14.6 percent respectively; crude steel and steel products were up 8.6 percent and 12.2 percent respectively and motor vehicles rose 15.8 percent, with cars alone rising 14.7 percent.
The sales ratio of industrial products was 97.7 percent, an increase of 0.5 percentage point over the previous year. This figure measures the part of production that is sold rather than going into inventory.
Among the 39 industrial divisions, 34 registered year-on-year growth in profits. The top five were petroleum and natural gas exploration; coal mining and washing; manufacturing of transportation equipment; farm and associated products processing; and manufacturing of general telecommunication equipment, computers and other electronic equipment.
Affected by price rises for crude oil and coal, the petroleum processing and coking and the nuclear fuel processing industries saw losses. Profits made by the power and heating production and supply industry also fell sharply.
Excluding these industries, enterprise profits rose 37.5 percent, or 6.1 percentage points more than in the same period last year.
"Considering the stagnant global economic environment, the 16.4-percent growth was fairly good," said Wang Xiaoguang, a Beijing-based economist.