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China's April industrial output growth rebounds

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BEIJING, May 13 (Xinhua) -- China's industrial value-added output rose 9.3 percent year on year in April, slightly recovering from March but showing slower growth than in the first quarter, heightening concerns over weakened growth momentum.

Analysts have called for more efforts in structural upgrades in the world's second-largest economy while cautioning against frequent macro-policy adjustments.

The April growth rate, identical to the same period last year, accelerated from the 8.9-percent growth seen in March, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said on Monday in a statement on its website.

Value-added industrial output measures the final output value of industrial production, or the value of gross industrial output minus intermediate input, such as raw materials and labor costs.

In the first four months of 2013, total industrial value-added output increased 9.4 percent year on year, compared with a 9.5-percent growth rate registered for the first quarter of the year.

The industrial sector's output for April added 0.87 percent in comparison to March, the NBS data showed.

The April figures are in line with the previous diagnosis of a generally stable Chinese economy but call for a stronger endogenous momentum of growth, according to Wang Jun, analyst with the China Center for International Economic Exchanges (CCIEE), a government think tank.

The NBS said in mid April that China's gross domestic product growth for the first quarter of 2013 slowed to 7.7 percent, down from 7.9 percent during the final quarter of 2012 and sapping expectation for a strong rebound.

Official data also showed China's Purchasing Managers' Index for the manufacturing sector, a widely observed economic indicator, fell to 50.6 percent in April from 50.9 percent in March, suggesting the foundations for China's economic recovery had not solidified.

Problems including overcapacity have become more evident amid sluggish external demand and as the effects of stimulus packages fade, explained Liu Yuanchun, vice president of the School of Economics at Beijing's Renmin University of China.

"A certain level of tolerance [to the problems] is needed before optimizing the economic structure," Liu added.

Zhu Baoliang, deputy head of the department of economic forecast at the State Information Center, stressed that economic growth is only one indicator of the economy's health.

Zhu, while labeling China's growth rate "suitable," said the consumer price index, a main gauge of inflation, grew 2.4 percent year on year in April, up from 2.1 percent in March but well below the year's control target of 3.5 percent.

In the first quarter, the country also completed 38 percent of its annual urban employment target, Zhu added.

"China's economy is shifting its gears. The fall in economic growth will last for a medium-to-long term," the CCIEE's Wang Jun said.

Agreeing that the current economic growth between 7 and 8 percent is reasonable, Wang said more efforts should be taken to adjust the economic structure and deepen reforms, in order to deal with more deeply rooted problems and inspire economic vitality.

Apart from weakened growth momentum, the Chinese economy is being threatened by multiple risks including a huge monetary stock, persisting inflationary pressure and mounting local government debts.

The new leadership of the Chinese central government have emphasized the need to stabilize growth, control inflation, defuse risks and deepen reform since it came to power in March.

Meanwhile, the Chinese economy is faced with a key period of change, not short-term cyclical fluctuations, according to Zhang Liqun, an analyst from the Development Research Center of the State Council.

Under such circumstances, pinning one's hopes on large-scale stimulus packages is like looking for a wrong key to the lock, Zhang said.

Echoing this analyst, Wang said the government should refrain from repeated policy adjustments while directing the focus of their work to economic restructuring.

Monday's NBS data also showed urban fixed asset investment, a main driver of economic growth, rose 20.6 percent year on year to 9.13 trillion yuan (147.29 billion U.S. dollars) in the first four months of the year.

Retail sales grew 12.8 percent from a year ago to 1.76 trillion yuan, slightly recovering from the 12.6-percent rise seen in March.

In April, China's heavy industries expanded 9.6 percent year on year while its light industries posted an output growth of 8.5 percent from a year earlier.

Analyzed by ownership, the industrial output of state-owned enterprises expanded 4.3 percent, while that of collectively owned companies grew 5.7 percent, compared with 10.9 percent for stock-holding companies and 7.4 percent for overseas-funded firms.

The NBS statement also showed that 40 of the 41 sectors tracked by the bureau saw output growth. The auto manufacturing sector grew 12.9 percent and general machinery manufacturing expanded 10.5 percent, while the textile sector grew by 10.1 percent, according to the NBS.

The growth of electricity output picked up from the 2.1-percent growth in March, rising 6.2 percent year on year to 399.4 billion kilowatt hours in April.

Meanwhile, steel output added 8.1 percent year on year to 87.61 million tonnes in April, cement output increased 8.7 percent to 214.88 million tonnes, while 38.32 million tonnes of crude oil were processed in the period, up 2.5 percent.

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