BEIJING, April 16 -- China's economy grew 7.4 percent year on year in the first quarter of 2014, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed on Wednesday.
The NBS said that preliminary data showed the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) reached 12.8213 trillion yuan (2.08 trillion U.S. dollars) in the first quarter.
The figures suggest growth in the world's second-largest economy in the beginning of year 2014 was stable and that the economy was generally in good health, as Chinese authorities promoted reforms, innovation, restructuring and improvement of people's well-being, according to the NBS.
The first-quarter growth exceeded market estimates of 7.3 percent.
However, it slowed compared to the 7.7-percent growth in the fourth quarter of 2013, and marked the lowest quarterly growth level since the third quarter of 2012. But even so, the figure still far outperformed the 6.6-percent growth in the first quarter of 2009, when the global financial crisis wreaked havoc.
Economists said the weaker growth suggested heavier downward pressure on the economy, but that the growth rate was still within a reasonable range.
"I predicted the first-quarter GDP growth to be between 7.2 and 7.3 percent. Though slower, I don't think this level of growth is unbearable," said Wang Jun, a senior researcher at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges.
Wang pointed to the significance of measures taken by authorities in March targeting tax reductions and simplification of administrative procedures, as well as their plans to step up railway investment and renovation of shanty towns.
"These measures aim to stabilize growth. I think the economic momentum will increase from the second quarter and there's no need to worry the economy will slide out of control," he said.
Other data jointly released with the GDP figures on Wednesday showed industrial output growth slowed to 8.7 percent in the first quarter.
During the same period, fixed asset investment growth gained 17.6 percent; retail sales expanded 12 percent, while the average per-capita disposable income of both urban and rural residents grew 8.6 percent year on year.
The economic slowdown came amid a generally mild inflation rate in the first quarter, with the consumer price index, the main gauge of inflation, rising 2.4 percent in March.
Earlier data also showed the country's exports and imports declined 1 percent year on year to 965.88 billion U.S. dollars in the first quarter while power consumption rose 5.4 percent year on year, though the March figure picked up steam and rose 7.2 percent.