BEIJING, RAW – China’s industrial output growth quickened in January-February, beating expectations, as the vast manufacturing sector started 2021 on a firm footing and the economy consolidated its brisk recovery.

Retail sales in the period also rose in a boost to domestic demand, giving a strong lift to business activity on top of the recent upsurge in exports growth.

Industrial output rose 35.1 per cent in the first two months from a year earlier, up from a 7.3 per cent on-year uptick seen in December, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed on Monday.

That was stronger than a median forecast of a 30.0 per cent surge.

China’s ability to contain the coronavirus pandemic before other economies were able to has allowed it to rebound faster, with the recovery helped by robust exports, pent-up demand and government stimulus.

While the impressive numbers are in part due to distortions from last year’s massive slump in activity, other measures show the recovery is broad-based with industrial output up 16.9 per cent compared with the first two months of 2019, before the pandemic struck.

An NBS official said positive factors for China’s economy are increasing but the foundation for the recovery still isn’t solid.

A rebound in foreign demand drove export growth in February to a record pace, while factory gate prices posted the biggest expansion since November 2018.

China’s economic activity is normally distorted and volatile in the first two months because of the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, which fell in February this year.

Retail sales increased 33.8 per cent from a year earlier in the first two months, compared with a rise of 32 per cent tipped by analysts, marking a jump from 4.6 per cent growth in December and after a 20.5 per cent contraction for January-February of 2020.

Sales grew 6.4 per cent compared with the first two months of 2019.

Fixed asset investment increased 35 per cent in the first two months from the same period a year earlier, slower than a forecast 40.0 per cent jump.

That compared with 2.9 per cent on-year growth in 2020 and a 24.5 per cent plunge in January-February last year.

Investment grew 3.5 per cent compared with the first two months of 2019.

Private-sector fixed-asset investment, which makes up 60 per cent of total investment, rose 36.4 per cent in January-February, versus a 1.0 per cent for the full year 2020.