China factory output rises in May but officials guarded

Output by Chinese factories and workshops topped expectations in May, but officials warned on Wednesday of lingering "unstable and uncertain factors" at home and abroad.

The reading on industrial production, a key engine of growth, comes as Beijing wrestles with huge debt and excess capacity left over from massive government-backed infrastructure spending at the height of the global financial crisis.

There have been renewed concerns about the strength of the world's number-two economy following a mixed bag of indicators in recent months and US President Donald Trump's protectionist rhetoric.

But forecast-beating trade figures last week and signs of a pick-up in the global outlook have raised hopes that China will be able to sustain its momentum.

The International Monetary Fund Wednesday raised its forecast for growth this year to 6.7 percent from a previous estimate of 6.6 percent.

The economy maintained "moderate but steady and sound" development in May", National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) spokeswoman Liu Aihua said in a statement.

But she warned that "unstable and uncertain factors still exist both domestically and externally".

Output rose 6.5 percent from a year earlier, the NBS said, unchanged from the previous month and slightly higher than forecasts of 6.4 percent in a Bloomberg News poll of economists.

Fixed-asset investment excluding rural areas -- which measures spending on real estate, roads and bridges -- slowed to 8.6 percent in the first five months of the year from 8.9 percent in January-April. That missed estimates of 8.8 percent.

Growth in retail sales -- a key gauge of consumer spending on everything from shoes and clothes to furniture -- was steady compared with April at 10.7 percent and matched forecasts.

"Growth momentum remained largely stable in May, but a cooling property market has started to have a negative effect on investment growth," Nomura research analysts Yang Zhao and Wendy Chen said in a note.

China's economy has long been driven by debt-fuelled investment in infrastructure, such as bridges, highways and dams as well as real estate.

But years of freewheeling credit have left it with huge amounts of debt that some fear could trigger a financial crisis, prompting authorities to rein in risky lending and property acquisitions.

The latest data shows Chinese banks issued 1.11 trillion yuan ($160 billion) in new loans in May, more than the expected 1 trillion yuan and slightly above the previous month's 1.1 trillion yuan.

Such concerns led Moody's to last month slash the country's credit rating for the first time in almost three decades.

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