RPT-Premier Li says China to speed up investment, stabilise demand

Thu Mar 20, 2014 1:46am EDT

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BEIJING, March 20 (Reuters) - Premier Li Keqiang said China will speed up investment and construction plans to ensure domestic demand expands at a stable rate - an indication authorities are considering practical measures to support slackening economic growth.

Li said at a weekly Cabinet meeting that China needs to roll out approved plans for growing domestic demand to keep growth in the economy in a "reasonable range".

No further details were given in an official statement following the meeting, and it was not clear if Li had given authorities a green light to accelerate new investment, or to start work on projects that have already been approved.

China's economic performance has been surprisingly subdued by its standards this year, with growth in investment, retail sales and factory output all hitting multi-year lows in January and February.

That weakness has rattled global investors who fear the huge contributor to world economic growth is slowing much faster than they had thought, and will soon drag on activity across the globe.

A falling yuan has further added to jitters about China's stumbling economy. The currency fell to one-year lows on Thursday after the central bank doubled its daily trading band to 2 percent.

Some analysts believe China's central bank is engineering this year's decline in the yuan to cushion a weakening economy, while others speculate that the government may step up efforts to bolster growth in coming months.

Analysts from government-controlled think-tanks said last week that Beijing may loosen monetary policy by reducing the level of deposits commercial banks must keep at the central bank if the economic growth slips below the government's 7.5 percent target. (Reporting by Koh Gui Qing; Editing by Eric Meijer)

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