Australian central bank says China slowing quickly

SYDNEY, Australia — The Chinese economy has slowed more quickly than expected during the global economic crisis and its growth rate may already have fallen below 8 percent, Australia's central bank chief said.

"The most striking real economic fact of the past several months is not continued U.S. economic weakness, but that China's economy has slowed much more quickly than anyone had forecast," Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Glenn Stevens told economists at a Sydney dinner on Tuesday.

In his final public address for the year, a transcript of which was published on the bank's Web site Wednesday, Stevens said his bank estimated that Chinese industrial production probably declined from July to October.

"There is every chance that the rate of growth of China's GDP is currently noticeably below the 8 percent pace that is embodied in various forecasts for 2009," Stevens said.

Beijing had quickly reversed policies aimed at slowing a once overheating economy to head it toward expansion, he said. "So there is a good chance that China's economy will be looking stronger in a year's time than it does today."

Chinese leaders began weighing possible plans Monday to expand a massive stimulus package with higher spending on health and social programs amid signs an economic slowdown is worsening.

Beijing is trying to figure out how to get the most out of a 4 trillion yuan ($586 billion) package announced in early November meant to shield China from a global slowdown with spending on construction and other projects.

Growth of the world's fourth largest economy is expected to fall to about 9 percent this year, down from last year's 11.9 percent


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