China's Economic Growth Seen Cooling Next Year ... To 10 Percent

Projection is ahead of the 8 percent target set by government.

BEIJING (AP) - China's feverish economic growth will slow slightly to about 10 percent next year, the chief economist for the National Statistics Bureau said Thursday.

The Central Bank estimated last week that the economy grew by about 10.5 percent in 2006. That estimate will likely be revised when official data are released months later.

Yao Jingyuan said at a news briefing that the economy will likely maintain ''fast and steady growth'' next year, with the growth rate likely to slow to around 10 percent.

His forecast was in line with a Central Bank report last week that put expected growth for 2007 at 9.8 percent. Both are well above the 8 percent target for 2007 set by a government strategy report released this month.

Yao's forecast suggests economic growth slowed slightly but remained rapid in the fourth quarter. The economy surged 10.7 percent in the first three quarters from the same period last year.

So far this year, China's government has taken a series of tightening measures to prevent the economy from overheating, such as interest rate hikes and increases in banks' deposit reserve requirement ratio to curb excessive liquidity and rapid fixed-asset investment growth.

Yao said that China's economy still faces a risk of overheating, but that the government also needs to guard against a major slowdown in economic growth next year.

He said the main economic problems now facing China are ''overly high credit growth, excessively rapid investment growth, and a large trade surplus.''

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