* April factory output +8.7 pct y/y vs +8.9 pct f'cast
* Jan-Apr fixed-asset investment +17.3 pct y/y vs +17.7
* April retail sales up 11.9 pct y/y vs 12.2 pct f'cast
* Property investment slows, sales slump
* C.bank tells banks to quicken mortage lending-sources
(Recasts, adds comments and details)
By Aileen Wang and Koh Gui Qing
BEIJING, May 13 China's economic activity showed
across-the-board weakness in April, with data from output to
investment and consumption all missing market expectations,
sparking new calls for Beijing to ease policies to shore up
Months of lacklustre performance and growing signs of
weakness in the housing market have led some analysts and
investors to question whether more stimulus is needed lest
economic expansion this year fall short of the official target
of around 7.5 percent.
China's central bank asked commercial banks on Monday to
speed up the granting of home loans and to set mortgage rates at
reasonable levels, sources told Reuters, underscoring concerns
that any sharp deterioration in the property market could
further strain the world's second-largest economy.
The most concerning data is fixed-asset investment, which
grew 17.3 percent in the first four months from a year ago, the
weakest pace since the government started a new statistics
method in 2011.
April industrial output data also disappointed the market,
growing 8.7 percent from a year earlier versus market consensus
of a rise of 8.9 percent, while retail sales also missed
forecasts by rising 11.9 percent during the same period, the
National Bureau of Statistics said on Tuesday.
"If the government still views that achieving a 7.5% growth
target is important for its credibility, China's monetary policy
will have to play its necessary role by easing further in order
to help pull the economy out of a state of lethargy," said Liu
Li-Gang and Zhou Hao, economists at ANZ, in a note to clients.
Beijing has unveiled a slew of targeted measures so far this
year to help shore up the economy, which dipped to 18-month low
in the first quarter and is seen on track to post the weakest
showing for 2014 in 24 years.
Such measures include faster investment in railway and
shanty town constructions, easing reserve requirements for rural
banks and tax breaks for smaller firms.
But economists said such steps are not dramatic enough to
arrest a persistent slowdown in the economy, especially at a
time when the slowing property market adds a significant new
risk to the economy and the banking system.
"The number (fixed-assest investment) basically tells us the
housing downturn has more than offset the investment push from
the government so far," said Wei Yao, China economist at Societe
Generale in Hong Kong.
Revenues from property sales fell 7.8 percent in the first
four of months of the year compared with the same period last
year, Tuesday's data also showed.
Real estate directly affects about 40 other industries in
China and is considered a crucial pillar of the economy.
"April's transactions in Shanghai were around 20 percent
lower than March; looking at the momentum now, April may not be
the bottom yet, May and June could still be on a downtrend,"
said Clement Luk, chief executive of east China for Hong
Kong-based Centaline Property.
Analysts' calls for an easier monetary stance seem run
counter to the recent comments by policymakers, who have ruled
out massive policy loosening, such as a universal cut in banks'
Central bank Governor Zhou Xiaochuan said on Saturday that
the government would not use any large-scale stimulus to boost
its economy in response to speculation that authorities might
lower reserve requirements for banks to spur growth.
Separately, an academic advisor to the monetary policy
committee repeated on Tuesday that there would be no big
adjustment in monetary policy as Beijing needs to wait for more
data in the coming months to decide on policy settings.
Chinese top leaders has flagged on many occasions that they
would be more tolerant of slower economic growth while they push
ahead with structural reform to pursue a more sustainable growth
In the latest indication of Beijing's determination to push
reforms, Chinese President Xi Jinping had said last week the
country must adapt to a "new norm" of economic growth and keep
"cool-minded" amid a slowing economy.
He also pledged to continue to coordinate the efforts of
stabilising growth, promoting reforms, adjusting structure,
improving people's livelihood and preventing risks so as to
ensure sound economic growth and social stability.
"Today's output and spending data from China paint a more
downbeat picture about the economy than the consensus had
expected, amid a continued slowdown of credit growth and
weakness in real estate," said economists at Capital Economists
in a note to clients.
"But there are still enough positives for policymakers to
remain 'cool-minded'," they added.
Recent factory surveys, though still weak, have hinted at
some signs of stabilisation, while April trade data showed both
exports and imports returned to slight growth as orders to the
United States and European Union surged.
(Additional reporting by Clare Jim in HONG KONG: Editing by Kim