China’s Power Output Rises at Second-Slowest Rate in Six Months

China’s power output grew in March at the second-slowest rate in six months as the nation’s first-quarter economic growth unexpectedly slowed.

Electricity production increased 2.1 percent to 419.4 billion kilowatt-hours last month, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed today. That’s the smallest gain since September, excluding February, when output fell 13.7 percent as factories shut the Lunar New Year holiday. Power consumption climbed 2 percent to 424.1 billion in March, according to the National Energy Administration.

China’s economic growth eased in the first three months as industrial output weakened. Gross domestic product rose 7.7 percent from a year earlier, compared with the 8 percent median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey and 7.9 percent in the fourth quarter, according to today’s data from NBS. March industrial production rose 8.9 percent, lower than the median estimate of 10.1 percent in a Bloomberg survey.

“The weaker-than-expected GDP growth and industrial output curbed electricity production in March,” Shi Yan, an analyst at UOB-Kay Hian Ltd. in Shanghai, said by phone today. “Power-output gains in the second quarter will probably improve amid low-base figures in the same period of last year.”

Spot coal with an energy value of 5,500 kilocalories per kilogram at the port of Qinhuangdao, a benchmark price for the nation, fell to a range of 605 yuan ($97.8) to 620 yuan a metric ton as of yesterday, data today from the China Coal Transport and Distribution Association showed. That’s the lowest price since Oct. 19, 2009, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Coal fuels about two-thirds of the country’s power.

China’s crude processing rose 5.5 percent from a year earlier to 40.8 million tons last month, NBS said today. That’s equivalent to almost 9.7 million barrels a day, the lowest since October.