Do Q3 GDP Numbers Signal Recovery?

China’s National Bureau of Statistics announced on Thursday that the economy expanded 7.4% in the third quarter, in-line with analyst expectations of a seventh straight period of slowing growth. From Xinhua News:

GDP reached 35.35 trillion yuan (5.61 trillion U.S. dollars) in the first three quarters of 2012, NBS spokesman Sheng Laiyun told a press conference.

“GDP grew 7.7 percent in the first three quarters, and the economy is generally stable,” Sheng said. During the first half, the GDP grew 7.8 percent.

“Compared with the first half, we have seen some improvements in the third quarter,” he said. Despite the growth slide, Sheng said that the economy had been stabilizing, especially since September.

He said a slew of evidence backed this, citing the trade rebound and other major economic indicators that showed growth picking up.

Asian stocks rose on the news, according to Bloomberg, and Reuters reports that Hong Kong’s benchmark index neared its 2012 high. And while David Pierson of The Los Angeles Times points out that growth has fallen to its slowest pace in more than 3 years, others agreed with both Sheng and Premier Wen Jiabao’s assessment that the economy is stabilizing. Specifically, according to MarketWatch’s Chris Oliver, analysts cited better-than-expected September data as a sign that growth could rebound back above the 8% level in the fourth quarter.

Bloomberg Businessweek’s Joe McDonald reports that the “painful downturn” may have begun to reverse:

In a sign of an emerging recovery, economic activity in the latest quarter was up by 2.2 percent from the previous three month period, the biggest quarter-on-quarter gain in a year, said Dariusz Kowalczyk, senior economist for Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong.

“This confirms that the economy is rebounding from the trough in the first quarter of this year,” Kowalczyk said. “There is no room and no need for further major stimulus.”

“We can see a clear sign of steady economic growth,” said Sheng Laiyun, spokesman for the National Bureau of Statistics. “There is a smaller margin of decline and some major indicators have been growing faster.”

Forbes contributor Kenneth Rapoza adds that those anticipating a China hard landing may need to “wait til next year”.