Despite the uncertain external environment and the downward pressure on the economy, the economic operations in the first two months were generally stable with investment growth accelerating, spokesperson for China's National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) Mao Shengyong said. China's normally steady unemployment rate rose to 5.3 percent in February, from 4.9 percent in December, with the NBS saying it had expected worse numbers.
Data last week showed exports tumbled the most in three years in February, suggesting US tariffs on Chinese goods and cooling global demand were taking a greater toll.
However, retail sales remain near a 15-year low, said Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics in a note, adding that "the near-term outlook still looks downbeat". The latest data showed growth in retail sales for January-February remained flat from December, rising 8.2 percent on-year and slightly above forecasts from economists polled by Bloomberg News.
The production pick-up followed a rise in profit margins at steel mills over January and February, with earnings from making construction product rebar jumping more than 20 percent from December, according to data tracked by Jinrui Futures. They raised 2.45 trillion yuan ($365.38 billion) in the first two months of the year, up 2.1 percent from the same period last year, slower than the 6.4 percent rise in the full year of 2018, the NBS said.
BEIJING-Growth in China's industrial output fell to a 17-year low in the first two months of the year, pointing to further weakness in the world's second-biggest economy.
Market expectations also brightened, Mao said, citing indexes of consumer confidence and new orders in the manufacturing sector that rallied in February.
Data released on Thursday showed that refineries' output in China in the first two months of 2019 increased by 6.1 percent compared to past year based on a daily basis record because the emerging privately owned refineries started the operations of their processing facilities.
Weekly utilization rates at steel mills across China fell to 62.98 percent last week as of March 8, the lowest level in a year, data compiled by Mysteel consultancy showed.
Beijing has tried to restart spending. Beijing has also become less anxious about cities easing existing curbs and is more concerned about the broader economic impact of the trade war with the United States. China, however, is not alone in facing trade woes.