China leaders meet to approve economic blueprint

<p>The meeting – called a plenum – has opened in Beijing.</p>

The Central Committee, China's ruling Communist Party, opened a four-day meeting today (October 26th) that will set up an economic and social development blueprint over the next five years. It will focus on financial reforms and how to maintain growth of around seven per cent.

The official Xinhua news agency said the meeting – called a plenum – had opened in Beijing at the Jingxi Hotel in western Beijing.

China has downplayed its own economic growth target ahead of the meeting to ease ongoing concerns over slowing growth. "We have never said that we would defend a certain percentage point to the death," said Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in a speech Friday.

The meeting takes place as government officials are under pressure to revive confidence in the country's economy and its commitment to economic reform. 

The government steps up economic stimulus

The People’s Bank of China announced late on Friday that it was lowering the one-year benchmark bank lending rate by 25 basis points to 4.35 per cent, while the one-year deposit rate would fall to 1.5 per cent from 1.75 per cent.

The bank also removed the ceiling on deposit rates in a bid to boost competition between Chinese banks. The amount of money banks must hold in reserve was also cut by 50 basis points for all banks.

China's economy slowed further in the third quarter of the year, growing 6.9 per cent, the weakest rate since the start of the global financial crisis. 

While the country grew at its weakest pace since the global financial crisis, it fared better than market expectations. A growth of 6.8 per cent had been forecast by analysts.

However, China's imports fell more than analysts expected last month. They dropped 20.4 per cent from a year earlier to $145.2 billion (£95.4 billion) due to lower commodity prices and weaker domestic demand, according to the Chinese authorities. Chinese goods to foreign markets fell 3.7 per cent, up from August's 13.8 per cent contraction.

The World Bank has revised down its growth forecast for China for 2015 and 2016. It now expects growth in the country to be 6.9 per cent this year and 6.7 per cent next year, down from an earlier forecast of 7.1 per cent and seven per cent respectively.

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