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China industrial output slows to nearly three-year low

Growth in industrial output from China's millions of factories and workshops slowed to 9.3 percent year-on-year in April, the lowest level in nearly three years, the government said Friday.

Last month's figure, which was down from growth of 11.9 percent in March, followed worse-than-expected import data on Thursday that indicate a slowdown in the world's number two economy.

The latest output figure was well below the 12.2 percent increase forecast in a poll of economists by Dow Jones Newswires, and marked the lowest level since May 2009.

"China's economy is even weaker than thought, with industrial production growth back in single digits for the first time since the global financial crisis," said Ren Xianfang, an economist for IHS Global Insight.

Meanwhile, the government said China's urban fixed asset investments rose 20.2 percent in the first four months of 2012 compared with a year earlier, weakening from 20.9 percent in the first three months.

Fixed asset investments in the cities are a key gauge of the Chinese government's infrastructure spending, which has increased rapidly in recent years as Beijing has sought to cushion the impact of the global downturn.

"Today's data on April spending and output put another nail into hopes that China's economy is bottoming out," said Mark Williams, an analyst with Capital Economics.

Friday's data came a day after China announced a rise of just 0.3 percent in imports in April, suggesting negligible change in domestic economic activity from a year earlier.

Chinese retail sales rose 14.1 percent in April compared with the same period a year earlier, the government said. In March, retail sales had been up 15.2 percent.

Retail sales are the main gauge of consumer spending in the world's second-largest economy and serves as an indicator of the government's progress in making domestic consumption account for a bigger share of growth.

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