Recent data adds to slowdown fears for China

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China’s industrial output rose 8.6% in January and February.

Retail sales, a key measure of consumer spending, also increased 11.8% from the year before, government figures show.

The figures were though less than analysts had expected, adding to concerns of a slowdown.

Asia markets fell on the back of this news, with both Hong Kong’s Hang Seng and the Shanghai composite dropping.

Fixed-asset investment, a measure of government spending on infrastructure, expanded 17.9%.

The reporting period includes the Chinese Lunar New Year, which fell during both months.

The data comes as China’s leaders wrap up their parliamentary session, known as the National People’s Congress (NPC), during which the government unveiled plans to push ahead with a pilot programme of privately-owned banks, in order to help open up the financial sector.

Earlier this month Li Keqiang, China’s Premier, announced that the government was expecting the economy to expand at the rate of 7.5% this year, which is the same target rate as last year.

However, he more recently commented that there was some flexibility on that target for 2014 and that the Chinese government’s main concern was jobs.

This concern over the slowdown in China‚Äôs economy led to falls in Australian stocks this week, particularly mining and resources stocks, which are heavily reliant on China’s demand for commodities.