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China output, consumption picked up in May

BEIJING -- Growth in China's industrial output and retail sales accelerated in May, with consumption increasing at its fastest pace since December, official data showed Friday, in signs of renewed strength in the world's second-largest economy.

Industrial production rose 8.8 percent year-on-year last month, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said in a statement, up from 8.7 percent in April and matching the median forecast in a poll of 15 economists conducted by the Wall Street Journal.

Retail sales, a key gauge of consumer spending, increased 12.5 percent last month from a year ago, the NBS said in a separate statement, up from a gain of 11.9 percent in April and the highest since 13.6 percent at the end of last year.

The data provided further evidence that economic activity in China is picking up as the government stepped up what economists call a “mini-stimulus” to arrest a slowdown seen earlier this year.

Friday's numbers “signal that China's growth momentum may soon bottom out, despite some downside risks,” economists at ANZ Bank said in a research note, also citing an acceleration in export growth announced earlier this week.

China's gross domestic product grew by 7.4 percent in the first three months of 2014, weaker than the 7.7 percent recorded in October-December and the worst pace since a similar 7.4 percent expansion in the third quarter of 2012.

Fixed-asset investment, a main measure of government spending on infrastructure projects, slowed marginally to 17.2 percent year-on-year in the January-May period from a 17.3 percent rise in the first four months of the year, extending a decelerating streak that began in September.

China's leaders say they want consumer spending and other forms of private demand to propel the economy into a future of more sustainable, albeit slower, growth, and reduce an over-reliance on huge and often wasteful investment projects.

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