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Premier: China's economy doing 'better than expected'
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Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said Thursday that government stimulus moves had begun to produce results and the economy was now in "better-than-expected" shape.

Wen's remarks at a cabinet executive meeting came after the government said there had been positive economic changes, even though the economy grew just 6.1 percent in the first quarter, the slowest pace in a decade.

The premier cited pick-ups in investment, consumption and industrial output, abundant liquidity in the banking system, and improved market expectations as signs of those "positive changes."

The National Bureau of Statistics said Thursday that first-quarter industrial output grew 5.1 percent year on year, with a rise of 8.3 percent in March.

It also said fixed asset investment rose 28.8 percent to 2.81 trillion yuan (US$413.2 billion), with real growth exceeding 30 percent, while retail sales grew 15 percent to 2.94 trillion yuan.

Such positive changes indicated that the government's macroeconomic policies, taken since the second half of last year, have been "timely, powerful, and effective," said Wen, who presided over the meeting.

China announced a 4-trillion-yuan stimulus package last November to boost domestic demand, slashed interest rates five times since last September, unveiled support plans for 10 key industries, and projected a record fiscal deficit of 950 billion yuan this year.

These measures were prompted by a collapse in exports as the global downturn took its toll on the world's fastest-growing economy.

China's economic growth cooled to a seven-year low of 9 percent last year, ending five years of double-digit expansion.

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