China's electricity consumption growth slowed in September, underlining the nation's moderating economic growth.
The National Energy Administration said on Wednesday that the country's total electricity consumption grew just 2.9 percent month-on-month in September to 405.1 billion kilowatt-hours. That is 9.3 percentage points lower than last September, and 0.7 percentage points lower than in August.
In the year to September, the country's electricity consumption grew 4.8 percent, slowing from 12 percent in the same period last year. Electricity consumption is widely seen by economists as one of the most reliable indictors of a country's economic strength.
Wang Jianhui, chief economist at Southwest Securities Co Ltd, said that the slowdown in electricity consumption growth does reflect the country's economic weakness, but seasonal factors also affect the figure.
He said that electricity consumption should grow by 9 percent, based on the country's current level of growth. The fact that many energy-guzzling factories were forced to halt production before the National Day holiday helped save electricity.
"In a word, the country's economic growth did slow down, but not to the extent as shown by the electricity consumption figure," said Wang.
China's electricity consumption grew 11.7 percent in 2011 and 14.56 percent in 2010, all higher than GDP growth.
The industrial sector's consumption grew just 0.9 percent year-on-year. Among heavy industries, the country's main electricity consumers, consumption dropped by 0.1 percent.
The agricultural sector used 3.4 percent more electricity than last September, whereas the service sector's consumption grew by 8.4 percent. Both of these sectors consumed less electricity than in August.
Cooler weather also impacted on residential electricity consumption. China's GDP growth lost momentum this year, amid fiscal and monetary tightening measures.
While the tightening measures achieved the expected results - consumer inflation dropped to a low of 1.9 percent in September - they also muffled demand.
In the second quarter, the country's economy expanded by just 7.6 percent, a three-year low.
The National Bureau of Statistics is expected to release third-quarter growth data on Thursday.
Many economists expect growth to further slow to 7.4 percent in the third quarter, falling below the 7.5 percent whole-year target set at the start of the year.
But in sheer volume, the country's economic growth rate is still one of the world's fastest, especially compared to developed economies such as the United States and Japan.
A rebound in electricity consumption is expected in the fourth quarter, Wang added, as growth speeds up. The Bank of China said in a recent report that the economy will expand by 8.2 percent from October to December, as stimulus measures take effect.
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