"We believe China could experience a short period of growth stability in Q1, perhaps even into Q2, but headwinds from the property sector, worsening fiscal conditions and limited policy space could then lead to a further growth slowdown", said Nomura's Chief China Economist Ting Lu, adding that quarterly GDP growth of below 6% was inevitable in the coming quarters.
While China's economy had been gradually losing steam over the first three quarters, growth stabilised at 6.0 per cent in the last three months of 2019 - the same pace as in the third quarter, according to the NBS.
Its GDP grew at just 1.5 per cent in the fourth quarter from the previous three months as expected, the same pace as in the July-September quarter, the National Bureau of Statistics said.
The new data was released two days after China signed a trade deal with US after months-long trade war over tariffs.
In recent years, China's leaders have struggled to balance competing demands of maintaining high rates of growth while simultaneously minimizing the consequences of years of debt-fueled stimulus spending. Auto sales fell for second year in 2019, tumbling 9.6 percent.
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Negotiators this week signed an interim trade deal under which Washington agreed to cancel additional planned tariff hikes and Beijing committed to buy more American farm exports. As of Thursday, 28 provincial-level governments had set annual economic growth targets for this year, and 20 of them lowered their goals from 2019, according to Caixin calculations based on official documents.
"The Chinese economy is unlikely to fall abruptly because of [.] government policies, but at the same time the trend of a further slowdown of the economy will remain unchanged".
The World Bank said in a report this month that weakening exports in China had compounded the impact of its ongoing slowdown in domestic demand.
"Retail sales growth were steady, indicating still pretty resilient consumers despite growing downward pressure on the labor market", she said. "The outlook for 2020 is for continued robust growth, boosted by the phase one trade deal with the United States and the continued positive impact of government monetary and fiscal policy stimulus measures".
Beijing has been relying on a mix of fiscal and monetary steps to weather the current downturn, cutting taxes and allowing local governments to sell huge amounts of bonds to fund infrastructure projects.