China's off to a good 2017 start

Li starts to get what he likes ... and then some.

Chinese prime minister Li Keqiang's 6.5% growth target for this year is tracking well (surprise, surprise) - with a buffer to boot - as China's economy growth accelerated in the first three months of 2017.

Chinese GDP expanded by 6.9% in the year to the March quarter, a step up from the December 2016 quarter's 6.8% growth rate and 6.7% each in the previous three quarters of the same year. This is better than market expectations for steady growth (6.8%) and is the fastest rate of expansion since September quarter of 2015.

The strong start to 2017 is backed up by other indicators.

Non-farm fixed asset investment increased by 9.2% in the year to the March quarter, up from 8.1% in the January-February period and beating market expectations for an 8.8% gain, led by a 13.6% jump in investment from state firms.

Exports surged by 16.4% in the year to March, a strong rebound from the 1.3% fall recorded in the previous month and significantly above market expectations for a 3.2% gain. Trump's recent announcement that he won't declare China a currency manipulator should provide further impetus for export growth in the coming months.

With the faster growth in fixed asset investment and exports, the acceleration in industrial production comes as no surprise -- 7.6% in the year to March (the fastest rate since December 2014) versus 6.3% in the January-February period and market expectations for a 6.3% increase.

Consumer spending is also on the rise. Retail sales jumped by 10.9% in the year to March following a 6.3% increase in the January-February period and beating an already strong consensus prediction for a 9.6% increase.

However, not all of China's economic stats are hunky-dory.

Inflation is not good. Consumer price inflation remains below the targeted 2.5%, up by a mere 0.9% in the year to March from 0.8% in the previous month and below expectations for a 1.0% increase.

Rising house prices is not good. Despite recent tougher purchase restrictions to cool the property market, latest data show that average prices of new homes in 70 Chinese cities continued to rise, up 11.3% in the year to March that followed an 11.8% increase in the previous month. While this is the slowest growth rate since September 2016, it also represents the 18th consecutive month of gains in house prices.

Like Australia, Chinese authorities have been taking steps to let the air out of the property market bubble before it burst and create financial instability.

The latest house price stats show that the People's Bank of China's (PBOC) efforts to slow property lending through higher interest rates and subsequent restrictions by local authorities - raising the down payment requirement, limiting property purchases, setting minimum periods for resale of newly-purchased properties - have so far been ineffective.

Read more: GDPFixed asset investmentExportsHouse pricesPeople's Bank of ChinaLi KeqiangAustraliaRetail sales
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