by Fran Wang
Beijing, July 13, 2012 (AFP) - China said on Friday its economy grew by 7.6 percent in the second quarter of 2012, the slowest pace since the depths of the global financial crisis more than three years ago.
This dragged down growth for the world's second-largest economy to 7.8 percent for the first half of the year, the National Bureau of Statistics said. The 7.6 percent second quarter growth was the slowest since 6.6 percent in the first quarter of 2009 when China and the rest of the world were struggling to emerge from the financial crisis through massive stimulus action.
Statistics bureau spokesman Sheng Laiyun said in a statement that China's leaders had "correctly handled" the economic challenges facing the country in the first half of this year.
"As a result, the overall national economy realised steady development and grew at a moderate pace," he said.
Going forward, China should "make more efforts to pursue steady growth, continuously strengthen and improve macroeconomic regulation, and try the best to achieve a sound and fast economic growth".
The government's full-year growth target is 7.5 percent.
Growth in retail sales, the main gauge of consumer spending, continued to slow in June, the bureau said on Friday.
Retail sales rose 13.7 percent in June compared with the same period a year earlier, down from growth of 13.8 percent in May.
Output from China's millions of factories and workshops also continued to slow, growing by 9.5 percent year-on-year in June, the bureau said, down from 9.6 percent in May.
However, indicating that some government measures to revive growth were starting to kick in, China's urban fixed asset investments rose 20.4 percent in the first half of 2012 compared with a year earlier, the bureau said.
The investments for the half compared with growth of 20.1 percent in the first five months of the year, signalling a slight increase in June.
Fixed asset investments are a key measure of government spending on infrastructure.
China has rushed to inject renewed vigor into its economy in recent weeks.
The government last week took the rare step of slashing interest rates for the second time in a month. That came after three cuts since December in banks' reserve requirements, or the amount of money they must hold in reserve.
Chinese leaders have vowed to take further measures. Premier Wen Jiabao this week called stabilising economic growth the government's "top priority".
On the positive side, inflation, which had been a major concern, has eased. Analysts say that gives the government more leeway to battle the slowdown.
Slowing growth in China is also casting a further cloud over the broader global economy.
Employment figures in the United States, the world's biggest economy, remain weak and the European Union is struggling to overcome its sovereign debt crisis.