BEIJING, Aug 16 (AFP): Growth in China's fixed asset investments eased marginally in the first seven months of 2006, official data showed today, offering further evidence that the economy may be starting to slow.
Urban fixed assets, a measure of investment in China's major infrastructure projects, totalled 4.47 trillion yuan (560 billion dollars), up 30.5 per cent from the same period a year ago, the National Bureau of Statistics said.
China's urban fixed asset investments rose 31.3 per cent in the first six months of the year, according to previously released figures.
The level remains well above the official growth target of 18 per cent growth for the year, although Qu Hongbin, an economist at HSBC in Hong Kong, said the very slight slowdown was positive.
"It's a good thing," said Qu. "It means the tightening measures that have been introduced since March are starting to have an impact."
China's economy expanded by 10.9 per cent in the first six months of the year and 11.3 per cent in the second quarter, driven by heavy investment especially in the provinces.
The central bank has implemented a range of macro measures to try and slow economic growth, such as an interest rate hike in April and curbs on investment in key industries.
Other figures released this month have also indicated a very mild cooling of the economy, with year-on-year growth in industrial output for July slowing to 16.7 per cent from 19.5 per cent in June.
Inflation slowed to 1.0 per cent in July from 1.5 per cent a month earlier.
The fixed asset numbers released Wednesday appeared to reinforce government concerns that provincial authorities are not enacting measures to slow the economy as swiftly as Beijing would like.
Projects funded by provincial and local governments in the first seven months increased 31.1 per cent to four trillion yuan, the statistics bureau said.
With the nation's energy demands continuing to rise, investment in the power industry has also exceeded other sectors.
Investment in the coal sector rose 42.5 per cent to 64.8 billion yuan in the first seven months of the year, while investment in oil and gas projects rose 31 per cent to 85.8 billion yuan.