China Dec industrial output up 1.3%, retail sales down 1.8%

Men stand on a balcony overlooking the central business district in Beijing

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s industrial output grew at a modest 1.3% pace last month year-on-year, official data showed on Tuesday, easing from a 2.2% rise in November, as manufacturing activity was hit by the rampant spread of COVID infections that bound workers indoors.

The growth rate was stronger than a 0.2% expansion analysts had forecast in a Reuters poll.

Retail sales contracted for a third straight month to 1.8% even as China abandoned its stringent zero-COVID policy last month, removing movement controls and testing measures. Consumption weakened as infections surged and people took time to recover.

Analysts had expected an 8.6% tumble after a 5.9% drop in November.

Fixed asset investment grew 5.1% in 2022, beating a forecast 5.0% rise and down from a 5.3% jump in January-November.

The world’s second-largest economy was sluggish for most of last year due to China’s tough anti-virus measures, a prolonged slump in its property sector and feeble global growth.

(Reporting by Kevin Yao, Liz Lee and Joe Cash; Editing by Tom Hogue)