BEIJING (Reuters) -- China's annual economic growth slowed between January and March 2014 to 7.4 percent from 7.7 percent in the previous three months, but beat market expectations for growth of 7.3 percent, according to data released Wednesday.

"Although economic growth slowed in the first quarter, in general, it stayed in a reasonable range," said National Statistucs Bureau bureau spokesman Sheng Laiyun.

Other data released alongside GDP showed industrial output rose 8.8 percent in March from a year ago, versus expectations of a rise of 9 percent in a Reuters poll.

Retail sales in March rose 12.2 percent on a year ago, above expectations for a 12.1 percent rise.

Fixed-asset investment rose 17.6 percent in January-March from the same period a year earlier, versus a forecast for an 18.1 percent rise. The government only publishes cumulative investment data.