China’s economy beats expectations, growing 4.8% in first quarter

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BEIJING — China’s economy grew 4.8% year-on-year in the first three months of the year, beating market expectations amid the largest national COVID-19 outbreaks in two years disrupted business operations and dampened consumer spending.

The result, however, puts the economy on a trajectory that falls short of this year’s official target of raising gross domestic product by 5.5%, a target which, if achieved, would already mark the slowest annual expansion in more than a quarter of a century. The outlook for the second quarter looks equally bleak, according to economists.

Economists had forecast GDP growth of 4.6% in the first quarter, an acceleration from the 4% year-on-year economic growth recorded in the last quarter of 2021.

China’s economy has come under intense downward pressure after an outbreak of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus prompted authorities in Shenzhen and then Shanghai to impose draconian lockdowns and quarantines on its citizens.

The week-long severe lockdown in Shanghai, in particular, has prompted several economists to downgrade growth forecasts for China’s economy this year.

China’s National Bureau of Statistics said GDP grew 1.3% from the fourth quarter of 2021, slowing from the 1.6% quarter-on-quarter increase in the previous quarter.

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

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