Updated: 12/10/2013 19:12 | By Agence France-Presse

China November industrial output growth slows to 10.0%

Growth in China's industrial production slowed in November but retail sales expanded at a faster pace, official figures showed Tuesday, painting a mixed picture of the world's second-largest economy.

China November industrial output growth slows to 10.0%

Workers put together a car in Peugeot Citroen's fourth Chinese factory in Shenzhen, in southern China's Guangdong province, on September 28, 2013

Industrial output, which measures production at factories, workshops and mines, rose 10.0 percent in November year-on-year, the National Bureau of Statistics announced.

That was a slowdown from the 10.3 percent expansion recorded in October, but matched the median forecast of 11 economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires.

Retail sales rose 13.7 percent in November from the year before -- an acceleration from the 13.3 percent registered in October.

"Today’s data could be either market-neutral or slightly positive," Bank of America Merrill Lynch economists Lu Ting, Zhi Xiaojia and others wrote in a report.

They added the figures might raise expectations for stronger growth in the current fourth quarter, while "the structure of the economy seems to be improved towards consumption".

Separately, an industry group announced Tuesday that auto sales in China, the world's largest car market, rose 14.1 percent year-on-year to a record high in November.

Citing solid demand for passenger vehicles, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said in a statement that a total of 2.04 million vehicles were sold in China last month.

The various November data followed publication of strong export and benign inflation figures for the month as China's economy -- a driver of global and regional growth -- shows signs of strength after a slump in the first half of the year.

Gross domestic product expanded 7.8 percent year-on-year in July-September, snapping a two-quarter slowdown, with data for the final three months of the year so far suggesting a steady outlook.

Figures on Monday showed inflation slowed to 3.0 percent in November, after two months of acceleration in consumer prices, well under the government's target for the year of 3.5 percent.

"With a muted inflation and a pace of GDP growth in line with China's potential, we expect the government to maintain neutral monetary and fiscal policies in the next couple of quarters while increasing their efforts on drafting and carrying out structural reforms," the Bank of America Merrill Lynch economists wrote.

The ruling Communist Party promised last month to pursue a range of reforms, including encouraging a bigger role for the private sector, further interest rate liberalisation and loosened currency controls.

On Sunday the General Administration of Customs said exports accelerated 12.7 percent year-on-year in November while import growth weakened, resulting in the country's biggest trade surplus in nearly five years.

But the strong export figure led some economists to wonder whether companies had returned to over-invoicing their overseas sales to camouflage capital flows, a phenomenon seen earlier this year.

"The export growth according to (the) industrial survey only grew by 5.8 percent, which reinforces our view that double-digit export growth in November likely reflects to some extent capital flows disguised as trade flows," Nomura International economist Zhang Zhiwei said in an email Tuesday.

China's leaders say they aim to move the economy away from dependence on big-ticket investment and want consumer demand to become the key growth engine.

Also Tuesday the statistical bureau said fixed-asset investment, a measure of government spending on infrastructure, expanded 19.9 percent year-on-year in the first 11 months of 2013.

That compared with an increase of 20.1 percent for the first 10 months.

Authorities are targeting overall economic growth this year of 7.5 percent, the same as the objective for 2012.

Speculation is increasingly focused on whether officials may lower it to seven percent for 2014.

"We see two options for the government: keeping it at 7.5 percent or cutting it to seven percent, and believe that deciding between these two will be a close call," Nomura International's Zhang said in a report Tuesday.

China sees annual growth in the seven percent range as being more sustainable for the future as the economy matures. As recently as 2010 GDP grew 10.4 percent, and the following year it expanded 9.3 percent.

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