China’s Economy Grows 6.9%

CBJ — China’s economic data is usually very predictable. But occasionally there are surprises, though so small that by other countries’ standards they would barely be noticed.

The country’s economy, the world’s second-largest behind that of the United States, grew 6.9% in the first quarter, led by strong expansion at factories. The pace was a slight acceleration in the economic tempo here after five consecutive quarters in which China reported growth of either 6.7% or 6.8%, a remarkable period of stability in the official data.

Most economists had predicted that China would again report 6.8% growth for the first quarter. The slightly higher figure reflected the construction industry’s heavy use of steel, which had been expected to slow, while investment in electronics factories rose as overseas demand strengthened.

China’s government data nonetheless holds some warning signs. While a torrent of mortgages issued by the state-controlled banking sector has helped housing sales, the number of housing starts has been rising even faster this spring.