China trims 2017 GDP growth rate just before 2018 pace unveiled

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s statistics bureau on Friday revised down its final 2017 gross domestic product (GDP) growth to 6.8 percent from 6.9 percent, after scaling back initial estimates of the industrial and services sector.

A worker stands in front of an Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL) container ship at a port in Qingdao, Shandong province, China October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

The National Bureau of Statistics revised the final 2017 GDP to 82.08 trillion yuan ($12.11 trillion), down 636.7 billion yuan from the preliminary number.

The revision came ahead of Monday’s release of preliminary GDP growth figures for the latest quarter and full-year 2018.

Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China economist at Capital Economics, said of the 2017 revision “it’s only because GDP figures are so stable (in China) that it actually seems like a big deal. But I don’t think it really changes anything.”

Evans-Pritchard said the trim suggests” greater tolerance to publish lower growth figures”, which indicates China is “probably willing to not loosen policy quite aggressively, as they are willing to tolerate slower growth.”

Analysts expect Beijing to roll out more stimulus measures to shore up sliding growth but Chinese authorities have repeatedly said the government won’t resort to massive stimulus.

Sources have told Reuters that China plans to set a lower economic growth target of 6-6.5 percent in 2019.

Final 2017 data shows the secondary sector - manufacturing and construction that account for 40 percent of GDP - grew 5.9 percent in 2017 to 33.3 trillion yuan. That compared with the bureau’s initial estimate of a 6.1 percent increase.

Growth in information technology services, the fastest growing sector in 2017, was revised down 4.2 percentage points to 21.8 percent, with output totalling 2.64 trillion yuan.

Growth estimates for construction, financial and leasing sectors were all revised lower.

The latest Reuters poll has forecast full-year growth of 6.6 percent for 2018 and 6.3 percent this year.

Reporting by Stella Qiu and Kevin Yao; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Richard Borsuk