China factories put weight behind forecast-busting 6.9% GDP

People look at an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo Monday

China's energy intensity, the amount of energy consumed per unit of GDP, decreased 3.8 percent year-on-year in the first quarter, the National Bureau of Statistics said Monday.

Beijing has set an official economic growth target of around 6.5 percent for 2017, down from last year's 6.8 percent growth.

That's slightly higher than the 6.8% figure recorded in the fourth quarter of previous year - and above what some economists had been predicting.

The economy grew at just 6.7 percent in 2016, its slowest rate in a quarter of a century.

In separate releases on Monday, the National Bureau of Statistics said industrial production rose 7.6% in the 12 months through March. "Thanks to strong investment and property, the economy is performing well".

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During the first quarter, investment in fixed assets such as factories expanded 9.2 percent from a year earlier, while retail sales grew 10 percent. The total value added from the tertiary sector accounted for 56.5% of the nation's GDP.

The strong reading should help underpin wobbly global financial markets but adds to worries that China's government is still relying too heavily on stimulus and "old economy" growth drivers and is not doing enough to tackle risks from an explosive build-up in debt.

China saw its slowest growth in almost three decades in 2016.

The government trimmed this year's growth goal to around 6.5 percent last month from a range of 6.5 to 7 per cent for 2016, a move expected to provide more wiggle room for reforms. Relatively cheap credit spurred booming property sales.

"For the first time in ... recent years, China starts a year with a strong headline GDP", ANZ Banking Group's chief China economist, Raymond Yeung, told Bloomberg.

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