Exports, consumers drive China's 6.9 percent growth in 2017

China's economy had a pretty great 2017 but this year could be tougher

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Retail sales rose 9.4 percent in December from a year earlier, missing expectations.

The median full-year economic growth estimate in Bloomberg's survey ticked up steadily last year, rising by 0.1 percentage point in each of the final three quarters from 6.5 percent in the first.

Economists polled by Reuters predicted China's economic growth would slow to 6.5 percent in 2018 from an expected 6.8 percent in 2017.

China's 2017 pork output rose 0.8 percent from the year before to 53.4 million tonnes, the National Statistics Bureau said on Thursday, increasing supply in the world's top consumer of the meat.

The Chinese economy is going through a phase of "creative destruction" as lively new economy sectors like e-commerce and online financial services coexist with still-dominant old economy sectors, said Chi Lo, BNP Paribas Investment Partners economist for Greater China.

Policy sources told Reuters previously that China will still keep its GDP growth target at around 6.5 percent in 2018 as Beijing seeks to balance efforts to reduce debt risks while keeping the economy on a steady footing.

It's the first time since 2010 that China's official growth rate has bested the prior year.

Fixed asset investment increased at a slower pace of 7.2% in 2017.

Still, years after China surpassed Japan as the second-largest economy, it's getting closer to knocking the United States from its perch at the top and is also playing a crucial role as a driver of global expansion.

China's excess production capacity has emerged as a major trade irritant for the world's leading economic powers, prompting them to consider new steps to protect domestic industries and jobs from a flood of Chinese imports.

Such practices have gone on for decades in China.

Economists say growth momentum in the economy is likely to weaken this year as firms face higher borrowing costs, the government tries to rein in credit and policy makers step up a war on pollution that has hurt the industrial sector in many parts of the country.

Beijing traditionally has struggled to force its priorities on local governments, but has vowed to take on financial risk this year, including how local governments finance themselves.

Several recent public revelations by regional governments of fraudulent government data have again raised doubts about the quality of China's economic numbers. "We expect investment to come under pressure this year but we are relatively optimistic about consumption and exports".

"We think tight monetary conditions and slowing credit growth will continue to weigh on the pace of economic expansion in coming quarters", Evans-Pritchard said in a note.

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