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China's SME development index climbs in Q1

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BEIJING, April 14 (Xinhua) -- An index measuring the performance of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in China continued to climb in the first quarter amid strengthening economic recovery, data from an industry association has shown.

The SME development index and the profit index for the first three months both gained 4.4 points to 95.2 and 76.7, respectively, the China Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (CASME) said in a statement.

The pick-up came in line with China's economic growth, which has begun to show signs of recovery since the fourth quarter last year after seeing its lowest growth pace in more than three years in the third quarter, expanding by 7.4 percent.

In breakdown, the sub-index for industrial firms, construction, transportation, wholesale, social services, information and computers all saw a notable rise in the first quarter.

Bucking the broader upward trend, the sub-index for the real estate, hotel and catering businesses dropped on account of China's renewed property controls and a call for frugality among government officials.

Despite the generally upbeat sentiment, the SMEs' performance is unlikely to see substantial improvements in the near future, as higher costs, financing difficulties and tepid market demand will continue to weigh on them, CASME said.

China's economic growth quickened to 7.9 percent year on year in the fourth quarter of 2012, ending a seven-quarter slowdown that was caused by weak external demand and cooling property investment.

Growth data for the first quarter is due on Monday.

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