China population rises 15.23 million in 2018, but rate slows

U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet after the G20 in Buenos Aires

President Xi far left and President Trump far right meeting last month Credit Kevin Lamarque REUTERS

Capital Economics China economist Julian Evans-Pritchard said the Chinese economy remained weak at the end of 2018 "but held up better than many feared".

Forecasters expect growth to decline further this year to 6.3 per cent or lower.

For 2018, property sales by area rose a modest 1.3 percent from a year earlier, official data showed.

Industrial output grew 5.7 percent in December from a year earlier, a faster pace than the 5.4 percent recorded in November.

Xi urged local authorities and ministries to keep a balance between nurturing growth and preventing risks.

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In January, a government-affiliated think tank warned that the population in the world's second-biggest economy could start to shrink as soon as 2027. Some are cutting back on spending, which might worsen the downturn.

Signs of China's falling population growth had emerged when data released by some local authorities indicated a significant drop in births previous year.

"Still, with the headwinds from cooling global growth and the lagged impact of slower credit growth set to intensify".

China has confidence and the capacity to achieve reasonable growth this year, Ning said, adding that the slowing economy has shown some signs of stabilisation over the past two months.

Canalys, another research company, estimated an even steeper decline of around 15 per cent in the same quarter. Combined with reports from Apple, American car-makers, and other US companies that China sales are falling below expectations, this would seem to point to a decision by China's consumers to avoid USA products.

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Overall credit growth decelerated every month previous year.

With a population of almost 1.4 billion and an expanding middle-income group that topped 400 million in 2017, consumption will remain a major driver of growth, while policies to increase resident income and improve quality of goods and services will further unleash its potential, Ning said.

Nomura analysts said current stimulus measures will not be sufficient and the government will need to do more to prevent a rapid deterioration in the economy.

"Growth is falling at an accelerated pace", Lu Ting, China economist at Nomura, said in a note.

JP Morgan's analysts forecast a significant value added tax cut, fiscal subsidies on home appliance and auto purchases as well as an expansion in government's budget deficit target to be announced in the coming months to boost spending along with monetary policy moves to support lending, such as another bank reserve ratio cut early in the second quarter.

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"China-US economic and trade frictions do indeed affect the economy, but the impact is generally controllable", said Ning.

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