China's economy suffered its first contraction in over 40 years, shrinking 7% in an 'extraordinary shock' to the global economy

Medical staff member pose for a group photo after returning home from Wuhan helping with the COVID 19 coronavirus recovery effort, in Bozhou, in China's eastern Anhui province on April 10, 2020. STR:AFP via Getty Images)

STR/AFP via Getty Images

Medical staff members pose for a group photo after returning home from Wuhan helping with the COVID-19 coronavirus recovery effort, in Bozhou, in China's eastern Anhui province on April 10, 2020.

  • China's economy fell by 6.8% in the first three months of 2020, signalling gloom for the country severely impacted by the coronavirus that emerged in its central city of Wuhan and spread to the rest of the world.
  • China's National Bureau of Statistics released the economic data on Friday showing major economic indicators declined across industrial production, retail sales, investments and imports and exports.
  • On news of the data, American economist Nouriel Roubini remarked that the collapse in the first-quarter was "staggering," while one investor described the contraction as an "extraordinary shock."
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

China's economy shrank for the first time in almost half a century in the first three months of 2020 as production and spending were frozen by the country's coronavirus lockdown.

The National Bureau of Statistics reported on Friday that gross domestic product fell by 6.8% in the first quarter of 2020, a sharp drop for China since the country first began reporting its GDP in 1992.
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The last time China officially acknowledged a year-on-year fall in output was for 1976, according to multiple news outlets.

The sharp contraction reflects the weakness in consumer spending and investor confidence while the coronavirus has flattened economies around the world. The central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus first emerged, revised its death toll on Friday from 2,579 fatalities to 3,869 - a jump of about 50%.

The economic data released on Friday showed that industrial production fell by 1.1% year-on-year, retail sales of consumer goods fell 19%, investment in fixed assets fell by 16.1%, imports and exports were down by 6.4% - all worse than estimated.
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China was keen, however, to present positives, saying that overall national economic and social development in the first quarter was stable despite the outbreak of COVID-19.

"The result modestly is on the rosy side of what we believe actually happened in Q1," said Miguel Chanco, senior Asia economist at Pantheon."But the official data were very close to the reality in the grand scheme of things, and that should be welcomed, despite the damning picture they paint," he said of China's statistics.
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Chart from Pantheon Macroeconomics showing the collapse of Chinese GDP in Q1 2020.

Pantheon Macroeconomics

Chart from Pantheon Macroeconomics showing the collapse of Chinese GDP in Q1 2020.

Chanco also said that analysts at Pantheon expect a full-year contraction, although he noted that "official headlines are unlikely to show that."

Read More: As the coronavirus crisis continues, more tech workers are feeling concerned about their jobs. These charts show which companies have the most angst.
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American economist Nouriel Roubini remarked on Friday that the year-on-year fall of China's GDP is a "depression rate of economic collapse." Roubini noted that the start of April showed positive economic growth for the country but the collapse in the first-quarter was "staggering."

"A 6.8% drop in GDP is an extraordinary shock to the Chinese economy, and by implication the rest of the world," said Richard Pearson, director at investment platform EQi.

Pearson suggested that China's data is an important indicator in considering the potential impact for the West while it is still in the throes of the pandemic. He believes the impact would be more severe on the West due to the difference in nature of government responses, which seemed to have resulted in lower recorded deaths in China.
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Connor Campbell, a financial analyst at SpreadEx, had a different view. He said "given some analysts were expecting a first quarter [China] contraction of nearly 11%, there is perhaps a paper-thin reason to take a chirpy view of the data."
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