China economic growth to exceed 7.5 percent in 2012: NDRC

BEIJING Sat Nov 10, 2012 3:07am EST

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BEIJING (Reuters) - China's economy has halted its slowing trend, the head of the country's powerful economic planning agency said on Saturday, adding that he was confident GDP growth would exceed 7.5 percent in 2012.

Zhang Ping, head of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the 18th Communist Party Congress which is meeting to chose a new leadership.

"Signs of stabilization in the economy were getting more obvious in October. We are fully confident that we can achieve the economic growth target for this year. In other words, we are able to maintain economic growth of above 7.5 percent," he said.

China's economy strode further along the road of recovery from its slowest growth in three years, data for October showed on Friday, as infrastructure investment accelerated and output from factories ran at its fastest in five months.

Data on Saturday showed China's trade surplus ballooned to its biggest in 45 months in October as export growth darted to a five-month high above 11 percent, surpassing expectations and adding to other data that suggest a less urgent need for new economic stimulus measures.

The figures provided further signs for the country's top policymakers meeting in Beijing to anoint new leaders for the coming decade that a long slide in economic growth may be over.

Annual economic growth slowed to 7.4 percent in the third quarter - its weakest since early 2009 - leaving the world's second-largest economy on track to mark its most sluggish year since 1999.

But central bank head Zhou Xiaochuan cautioned on Thursday that external risks still loomed large and the People's Bank of China has policy room to respond if necessary.

SUSTAINABLE GROWTH

Zhang said China's economic slowdown this year had been caused by both weak global demand and government steps to adjust economic structures to put the economy on a more sustainable footing for the future.

Government officials have said repeatedly that they intended to use a period of slowing growth to make a series of adjustments to economic policy settings, particularly around prices administered by the state, that might otherwise risk fuelling inflation.

Such reforms are regarded as crucial, both by foreign analysts and government think-tanks, if China is to maintain robust growth needed to close a yawning wealth gap and support an urbanization drive core to Beijing's development plans.

Zhang said that inflation was stable in China. Official data on Friday showed consumer price inflation eased to its slowest pace in nearly three years in October, with the 1.7 percent rise from a year ago slower than the 1.9 percent posted in September. Economists polled by Reuters had expected it to hold steady.

Investors though have been concerned that efforts to cool the economy had been mistimed, unintentionally coinciding with a sharp slowdown in external demand with recovery in the United States remaining tepid and Europe still unable to escape its sovereign debt crisis.

Beijing has responded by fine-tuning economic policy for a year to support growth.

China has cut benchmark interest rates twice this year, lowered bank reserve ratios three times since late 2011 and made repeated, large-scale liquidity injections into the financial system, it also said in September it had fast-tracked approvals on infrastructure projects worth about $157 billion.

(Writing by Nick Edwards; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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