China economic growth at lowest in years

BEIJING - China's economy grew 6.9% in the third quarter, the weakest rate since the global financial crisis.

The year-on-year growth rate is also below the government's 7% target.

Though slightly above expectations, the data is expected to raise pressure on policymakers to step up monetary policy to stem the slowdown.

China's economy has been hit by extreme stock market volatility over the summer and weak economic data, causing concern on markets around the world.

Most analysts were expecting growth figures of 6.8% for the July to September period.

The latest growth figure comes after a slew of disappointing data out of China. Earlier in the month, manufacturing data suggested the sector continued to contract for September.

Imports saw a sharp fall for the past month while inflation eased by more than expected, adding to fears of a rapid slowdown in the world's second largest economy.

China has been attempting to shift from an export-led economy to a consumer and services-led one.

Beijing set an official growth target of "about 7%" for the overall year but Premier Li Keqiang said a lower growth rate was also acceptable, as long as enough new jobs were created.

"In order to restructure, the economy will face some downward pressure," Sheng Laiyun, a spokesman for the Chinese statistics agency, told reporters.

But despite a slowdown in the industrial sector, Mr Sheng said the services sector is expected to grow rapidly.

"All this indicates the restructuring and upgrading of the Chinese economy are going steadily."

However, analysts say the steep fall in imports suggests domestic demand is not as strong as the government would have hoped.

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