Page last updated at 06:21 GMT, Monday, 20 October 2008 07:21 UK

Chinese economy growth rate slows

Factory worker in Fujian province (18 October 2008)
Chinese exports have been a key driver of the economy

China's economic growth rate has fallen for the third quarter in succession, amid fears that the economy could be heading for a severe downturn.

The National Bureau of Statistics said the economy had grown at a rate of 9% in the three months to September - down from 10.1% over the previous quarter.

Spokesman Li Xiaochao said the impact of the global financial crisis had far exceeded the government's expectations.

Meanwhile shares rose in Asia. Japan's Nikkei index ended the day up 3.59%.

Share values also rose in Hong Kong, Australia, and South Korea.

No signs of recovery'

The third quarter growth rate announced on Monday marked a significant fall from the 10.4% growth of the first half of 2008, and the 12.2% growth seen in the first three quarters of 2007.

"There are no signs of a definite recovery from the financial crisis," statistics bureau spokesman Li Xiaochao told a news conference.

Export growth is slowing, and some companies are running into trouble
Li Xiaochao
National Bureau of Statistics

"The growth rate of the world economy has slowed down noticeably. There are more uncertain and volatile factors in the international economic climate," he said. "All these factors have started to release their negative impact on China's economy."

Correspondents say indicators from steel prices to housing sales suggest a severe economic slowdown could be in prospect.

Chinese factories are reporting that export orders are down sharply. Last week, the government said that half the country's toymakers had gone out of business.

Mr Li said the government had initiated timely measures to deal with the economic slowdown and cushion the impact from the global credit crisis, including falling exports and a restricted credit supply.

These included changing its focus from preventing the overheating of the economy and preventing structural inflation to the "preserving growth" and "controlling" inflation, he added.

Officials said over the weekend that the government was preparing to announce tax cuts and increased infrastructure investment. Curbs on the housing market in certain areas may also be relaxed.

Investors check the Shanghai stock index (14 October 2008)
The main stock index in the city of Shanghai is sharply down

The People's Bank of China has cut interest rates twice and reduced banks' required reserves since mid-September. A third interest rate cut is expected later this year.

The BBC's Quentin Sommerville in Shanghai says that although the government it is doing what it can to boost demand at home, China's new middle class is already feeling the pinch.

The stock market is sharply down, so too are house prices, while car sales have slowed dramatically. Consumers are cutting down on spending as they believe there are tougher times ahead, he says.

The National Bureau of Statistics also announced on Monday that consumer price inflation had cooled to a 15-month low of 4.6% in September. In February, inflation had hit a 12-year-peak of 8.7%.

Mr Li said the slowdown in inflation showed that the policies initiated by regulators to control it had been effective.

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