Labourers at work at a railway bridge construction site in Jiangsu province in China.
Beijing - Growth in investment, factory output and property sales misses estimates
Growth in China's investment and factory output missed forecasts in August, pointing to a further cooling in the world's second-largest economy that will likely prompt the government to roll out more support measures.
The downbeat data came on the heels of weak trade and inflation readings, raising the chances that third-quarter economic growth may dip below seven per cent for the first time since the global crisis.
"The pace of slowdown in fixed-asset investment is relatively fast - dragged by the property sector, while the factory sector remains sluggish," said Zhou Hao, senior economist at Commerzbank AG.
"Overall, the economy is very weak and the central bank may have to continue cutting interest rates and banks' reserve requirement," Zhou said, adding he expected growth was very likely to dip below seven per cent in the July-September quarter.
Some economists believe current growth is already much weaker than official data suggest.
Growth in China's fixed-asset investment slowed to 10.9 per cent in the first eight months of 2015 - the weakest pace in nearly 15 years, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed on Sunday. Analysts had forecast an 11.1 per cent rise, compared with 11.2 per cent in January-July.
Factory output was weaker than expected, rising 6.1 per cent in August from a year earlier. Markets had expected a 6.4 per cent increase, compared with July's six per cent.
Annual growth in China's real estate investment also continued to cool, slowing to 3.5 per cent in the first eight months, the weakest since early 2009, from 4.3 per cent in January-July.
While home sales and prices are slowly recovering from a slump last year, analysts say it will take time for developers to work off a huge overhang of unsold houses and a sharp falloff in new construction will continue to dampen demand for materials from cement to steel.
"A pick-up in infrastructure investment is insufficient to offset the slowdown in property investment." Yu has pencilled in 6.9 per cent growth for the third quarter.
Retail sales were the lone positive surprise, growing 10.8 per cent in August from a year earlier, above forecasts of 10.5 per cent, the same as July. But the increase did not appear to jibe with recent reports from local and foreign firms in China of slowing sales.
Vehicle sales fell three per cent in August from a year earlier. Data showed that China's manufacturers slashed prices at the fastest rate in six years in August as commodity prices fell and demand cooled. Imports tumbled more than expected while exports shrank again.
China's surprise yuan devaluation last month and a plunge in its stock markets since June have fuelled fears of more shocks to the economy.