China's economy grew at the slowest pace in a year in the third quarter, hurt by power shortages, supply bottlenecks and sporadic Covid-19 outbreaks.
This has raised the heat on policymakers amid rising jitters over the property sector.
Data released on Monday showed gross domestic product grew 4.9 per cent in the July-September period, the weakest pace since the third quarter of 2020 and a decline from the 7.9 per cent growth reported in the second quarter.
That marked a further deceleration from the 18.3 per cent expansion in the first quarter, when the year-on-year growth rate was heavily flattered by the very low comparison during the coronavirus-induced slump of early 2020.
"The domestic economic recovery is still unstable and uneven," said National Bureau of Statistics representative Fu Linghui at a briefing in Beijing on Monday.
A Reuters poll of analysts had expected GDP to rise 5.2 per cent in the third quarter.
On a quarterly basis, growth eased to 0.2 per cent in July-September from a downwardly revised 1.2 per cent in the second quarter, the data showed.
The world's second-largest economy has rebounded from the pandemic but the recovery is losing steam, weighed by faltering factory activity, persistently soft consumption and a slowing property sector as policy curbs bite.
"In response to the ugly growth numbers we expect in coming months, we think policymakers will take more steps to shore up growth, including ensuring ample liquidity in the interbank market, accelerating infrastructure development and relaxing some aspects of overall credit and real estate policies," said Louis Kuijs, head of Asia economics at Oxford Economics.
Global worries about a possible spillover of credit risk from China's property sector into the broader economy have also intensified as major developer China Evergrande Group wrestles with more than $300 billion of debt.
Chinese leaders, fearful that a persistent property bubble could undermine the country's long-term ascent, are expected to maintain tough curbs on the sector even as the economy slows but could soften some tactics as needed, policy officials and analysts said.
Premier Li Keqiang said on Thursday that China has ample tools to cope with economic challenges despite slowing growth, and that the government is confident of achieving its full-year development goals
China's economy is expected to grow 8 per cent this year, central bank governor Yi Gang said on Sunday.
Analysts polled by Reuters expected the PBOC to keep banks' reserve requirement ratio unchanged in the fourth quarter, before delivering another 50-basis points cut in the first quarter of 2022.
September industrial output rose 3.1 per cent from a year earlier, missing expectations. It was down from August's 5.3 per cent and marked the slowest growth since March 2020, during the first wave of the pandemic.
However, consumption showed signs of an improvement, with retail sales growing 4.4 per cent in September, faster than the 2.5 per cent in August.