China's economy grew 7.7% in first quarter

China's economic growth slowed to 7.7 percent in the first quarter of this year, the government said Monday, a shock result that came in below expectations.

The figure, announced by the National Bureau of Statistics, compared with a median 8.0 percent forecast in a poll of 12 economists by AFP.

China's economy -- the world's second-largest -- expanded 7.9 percent in the fourth quarter of last year.

In a statement the NBS cited "the complicated and volatile economic environment at home and abroad".

China's ruling Communist Party and government were committed to "making progress while ensuring stability", it said.

China's economy grew 7.8 percent in 2012, its slowest rate in 13 years, and authorities have kept their growth target for 2013 at a conservative 7.5 percent.

The 7.9 percent attained in the final quarter of last year, which snapped seven straight quarters of slowing growth, had raised hopes of a stable recovery as other major economies remain relatively weak.

Industrial production rose 8.9 percent year-on-year in March and 9.5 percent in the first quarter, the NBS said, while retail sales were up 12.6 percent in the month and 12.4 percent in the first quarter.

China's leaders have vowed to rebalance the economy away from reliance on traditional growth drivers investment and exports and towards consumer demand.

But fixed-asset investment, a key measure of government spending on infrastructure, jumped 20.9 percent in the first quarter from the same period in 2012, the NBS said.