Shanghai 2013
A view of the city skyline from the Shanghai Financial Center building, October 25, 2011. Reuters

Chinese economic data for first quarter released Monday came in weaker than expected, with gross domestic product for the January-March quarter rising 7.7 percent vs. 7.9 percent in fourth quarter 2012, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. However, compared to year-ago numbers, GDP rose 7.7 percent.

Additionally, industrial production increased 8.9 percent from the year-earlier period, but that was well below DowJones' forecast of 10 percent. The growth was the weakest in more than a year, slowing from a 9.9 percent average rise for the January-February period.

Analysts blame the unimpressive data on a Chinese economy that is sustained by property and stimulus-supported infrastructure rather than broad private sector investment or household spending, and they don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

“A loosening of property-market controls or another round of stimulus would be needed to deliver significantly stronger growth over the quarters ahead. Given that policymakers already seem concerned about the current pace of credit growth and excess investment in property, neither seems likely,” Mark Williams, Chief Asia Economist for Capital Economics, said.

The data on retail growth also failed to impress. March retail sales rose 12.6 percent, improving from 12.3 percent year-on-year growth in the January-February period but far less than the 15.2 percent gain in December.

Results for urban fixed-asset investment (FAI) also showed slower growth. Though figures rose 20.9 percent in January-March from the comparable year-earlier period, that was less than the 21.2 percent rise in January-February. Still, for all of 2012, FAI gained 20.6 percent, suggesting an uptick in recent construction activity.