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China posts weakest growth in 29 years as trade war bites, but ends 2019 on firmer note

By Ritu

Capital Sands

China’s economic growth slowed to its weakest in nearly 30 years in 2019 amid a bruising trade war with the United States and sputtering investment, and more stimulus steps are expected this year to help avert a sharper slowdown.

But data on Friday also showed the world’s second-largest economy ended the year on a firmer note as trade tensions eased, suggesting a raft of growth boosting measures over the past two years may finally be starting to take hold.

This year is crucial for the ruling Communist Party to fulfill its goal of doubling GDP and incomes in the decade to 2020, and turning China into a “moderately prosperous” nation.

Fourth-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) rose 6.0% from a year earlier, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed, steadying at the same pace as the third quarter, although still the weakest in nearly three decades.

That left full-year growth at 6.1%, the slowest annual rate of expansion China has seen since 1990. Analysts had expected it to cool from 6.6% in 2018 to 6.1%.

Policy sources have told Reuters that Beijing plans to set a lower economic growth target of around 6% this year from last year’s 6-6.5%, relying on increased infrastructure spending to ward off a sharper slowdown.

On a quarterly basis, the economy grew 1.5% in October-December, also in line with expectations and the same pace as the previous three months.