China's economic recovery unexpectedly stumbled in the first three months of 2013 as the annual rate of growth eased back to 7.7 percent from the 7.9 percent pace set in the final quarter of last year, official data showed on Monday.
The figures, announced by the National Bureau of Statistics, were weaker than market expectations in the consensus Reuters poll of a 8.0 percent expansion.
Many investors had been primed for an upside surprise versus the consensus after a Q1 surge in liquidity in the economy and an uptick in export growth nurtured a belief that a policy-induced recovery that had snapped seven straight quarters of weakening expansion in Q4 would accelerate again.
China's full-year annual growth of 7.8 percent in 2012 was the weakest since 1999.
Other data released alongside GDP showed industrial output grew 8.9 percent in March from a year ago, versus expectations of 10.0 percent showed in the Reuters poll.
Retail sales in March rose 12.6 percent on a year ago versus an estimated 12.5 percent in the Reuters poll.
Fixed-asset investment grew 20.9 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, versus an expected 21.3 percent. The government only publishes cumulative investment data.
(Reporting by China Economics Team; Editing by Nick Edwards)