China's gross domestic product expanded 6.1 percent in the first quarter of 2009, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Thursday - slightly higher than expectations for a 6.0 increase following the 6.8 percent gain in the previous quarter. It also marks the slowest rate of increase since the quarterly data was first collected in 1992.

It also casts some doubt over the government's full-year GDP target of 8 percent growth following the 9 percent expansion in 2008 and the 13 percent gain in 2007.

The national economy is confronted with the pressure of a slowdown, the NBS said in a statement, adding that employment difficulties are likely to increase amid the struggling global economy.

The NBS also said that consumer prices in China eased 1.2 percent on year in March. Forecasts had called for a 1.4 percent decline after the 1.6 percent annual fall in February. On month, inflation was down 0.3 percent - mostly due to weak domestic demand and falling commodity prices.

For the first quarter of 2009, inflation was down 0.6 percent on year following a 5.9 percent increase for all of 2008.

Also, producer prices fell an annual 4.6 percent in the first quarter.

Industrial production in China was up 5.1 percent on year through the first three months of 2009, following a 12.9 percent jump in all of 2008.

In March, industrial production added 8.3 percent, the data showed. Analysts had expected a 6.3 percent annual increase following the 11 percent jump in February.

Also, the NBS said that urban fixed asset investment was up 28.6 percent on year in the first quarter and 30.3 percent in March.

Retail sales were up 15 percent in the first quarter and 14.7 percent in March.

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