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China delays release of key economic data amid party congress

The figure for third-quarter gross domestic product has been highly anticipated after the world’s second-largest economy grew just 0.4 percent in the second quarter.
Factory workers in Fuyang, China, last month.AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: Reuters

BEIJING — China delayed the release of economic indicators scheduled for publication this week, including its third-quarter gross domestic product data due on Tuesday, according to an updated calendar on the statistics bureau’s website.

The highly unusual delay comes amid the weeklong congress of the ruling Communist Party, a twice-a-decade event that is an especially sensitive time in China.

The data for third-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) — originally scheduled for release at 10 a.m. (10 p.m. Monday ET) on Tuesday — has been highly anticipated after the world’s second-largest economy grew just 0.4 percent in the second quarter compared with a year earlier.

A person answering the telephone in the media office at the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said the change was “due to adjustment to work arrangements” but gave no further details.

No date for a rescheduled release has been given.

GDP was expected to have expanded 3.4 percent in the quarter from July to September, according to a Reuters poll, as the economy started to feel the impact of a raft of government supportive policies introduced in recent months.

“The delayed economic data release is not because of bad economic recovery but the ongoing congress, as authorities want media and the public to concentrate on the key messages delivered by the big event,” said Bruce Pang, chief economist at Jones Lang Lasalle in Hong Kong.

He said the delay was unlikely to affect market sentiment, as most preliminary economic data pointed to a pickup in recovery in the third quarter.

September releases for a host of other figures that are typically issued along with the GDP data, including industrial production, retail sales and the urban jobless rate, have also been delayed, according to the NBS website.

Also delayed was data for China’s home prices for September, which had been scheduled for publication on Wednesday.

The delays followed the unexplained delay in the release of September’s trade data by the General Administration of Customs, which had been due out on Friday.

The trade statistics had been expected to show China’s export growth weakened further from August, dragged down by soft global demand, while its imports remained tepid.

The trade data was not released on Monday and calls to the customs administration seeking comment went unanswered.

At the conclusion of this week’s congress, President Xi Jinping is widely expected to win a precedent-breaking third leadership term.

At the last party congress, in 2017, third-quarter GDP data was released as usual.