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China economy sees across-the-board slowing

(Money Watch) China saw sharper than expected declines in retail and home sales, exports, investment and production in April, dashing predictions of a turnaround in the world's second largest economy.

Although China's industrial production rose 9.3 percent last month, this was down significantly from a nearly 12 percent increase in March and the slowest annual rate in nearly three years.

Exports rose 4.9 percent in April from a year earlier, while imports rose just 0.3 percent, according to data from China's General Administration of Customs. Analysts had been expecting at least a 10 percent growth in imports and 8.5 percent increase in exports.

China's home sales transaction value fell 16 percent in April to $50 billion from $59 billion in March and $51 billion a year earlier, based on the difference between the National Statistics Bureau's data for the first four months of the year and the first quarter. Housing sales value from January to April fell 13.5 percent to from a year earlier.

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Total real estate investments in homes, office buildings and malls was up 18.7 percent between January and April, slower than last year's gain, Bloomberg reports.

The situation could be worse than reported: China's official economic statistics are viewed as suspect by most foreign economists and are frequently altered to fit the government's wishes.

The slowing economy has eased inflation fears. China's consumer price index rose 3.4 percent in April from a year earlier, slower than March's 3.6 percent rise, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Food prices were up 7 percent in April from a year earlier, down from March's 7.5 percent increase. According to data from the Ministry of Commerce, prices for key food items such as pork and fresh vegetables have been falling for several weeks.

China's economy is suffering from weak demand abroad and a collapsing real estate market. Its banking sector is also believed to be in trouble and most of its municipalities are deeply in debt.

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