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China's growth likely to bottom out: HK analysts

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HONG KONG, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) -- China's economic growth came in at 7.4 percent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2012. Some banks in Hong Kong believe that as easing measures are feeding through, growth is likely to bottom out towards the end of the third quarter in China.

The third quarter's economic growth is slower from 7.6 percent in the second quarter and 8.1 percent in the first, the National Bureau of Statistics announced Thursday.

Qu Hongbin, an economist at HSBC, said that although the year-on-year growth edged down slightly from the previous quarter as expected, the seasonally adjusted quarter-on-quarter growth picked up to a one-year high of 2.2 percent.

Qu said that going forward, benign inflation outlook provides room for additional monetary and fiscal easing. The filtering- through of policy easing coupled with the stabilization of property market should support a mild growth recovery in the coming months.

Moreover, September's improvement is faster and stronger than expected, implying that the recent acceleration of policy easing -- both the approval of infrastructure projects and the improving liquidity conditions -- is feeding through to generate new demand.

"As we expected, the infrastructure-led investment growth is offsetting the weakness in other sectors, becoming the key driver for the rebound of investment growth," Qu said.

In Qu's view, domestic demand holds the key for China's growth recovery, while external challenges remain abound. Within domestic demand, consumer spending is likely to continue to perform steadily boosted by the rapid income growth, while investment is likely to find support from the stronger infrastructure investment, the favorable funding conditions as indicated by the surge of total social financing and money supply growth and the stabilization of property market.

"In short, we expect a further filtering-through of policy easing leading to a modest growth recovery in the coming quarters. Our 2012 annual GDP growth forecast of 7.8 percent year-on-year remains intact," Qu added.

Ting Lu and Larry Hu, China economists from Bank of America and Merrill Lynch, also perceived the third quarter's data could mark the growth trough of China's economy.

Since mid-September an increasing amount of evidence has been seen of green shoots from a wide range of sectors including transportation, commodity, exports, property market, credit and money data, tourism in Golden Week and manufactures' restocking, according to Lu and Hu.

"Our overall take is that the 7.4 percent year-on-year GDP growth in the third quarter could mark the trough. It might take another couple of quarters for growth to significantly recover, but we believe the risk for a hard landing is getting increasingly smaller, we at least could be confident to expect stabilization," Lu and Hu said.

According to them, Beijing is unlikely to announce any big-bang stimulus package reminiscent of the 4-trillion yuan stimulus package in late 2008, "but we expect Beijing to be more aggressive in accelerating start-up of new projects and constructing existing projects."

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