China’s economic growth tumbled to the lowest in more than three years in the latest quarter but retail sales and investment improved in a possible sign a painful slump might be stabilising.

The world’s second-largest economy grew 7.4 per cent in the three months ending in September, data showed on Thursday. That was down from the previous quarter’s 7.6 per cent and the lowest since the first quarter of 2009.

Retail sales rose 14.4 per cent, a small acceleration over the first half of the year, and investment in industrial assets and some other indicators also showed small improvements.

“Judging from the third quarter figures, we can see a clear sign of steady economic growth,” said Sheng Laiyun, spokesman for the National Bureau of Statistics, at a news conference. “There is a smaller margin of decline and some major indicators have been growing faster.”

Analysts expect China’s economic growth to rebound late this year or early next year but say a recovery is likely to be too weak to drive global growth without improvement in the United States and Europe.

The slowdown is due largely to government lending and investment controls imposed to cool an overheated economy and inflation. But the downturn worsened sharply last year after global demand for Chinese goods plunged unexpectedly.

The government has cut interest rates twice since early June and is injecting money into the economy through high investment by state companies and spending on building airports, subways and other public works. But authorities have avoided launching a massive stimulus after huge spending fuelled inflation.

Premier Wen Jiabao said growth appeared to be stabilising and he expressed confidence the country could meet its official targets for the year.

“Economic growth is stabilizing and we are confident through our efforts we can achieve the full—year targets for economic and social development,” the premier said in a Cabinet statement.

Keywords: China economy

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