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In January-February, China produced some 73.89 million mt of coke, up 7.6% from the same periodlast year.

Average daily steel output over the two months reached 2.54 million tonnes, up from 2.46 million tonnes in December and 2.32 million tonnes in the same months previous year, according to Reuters calculations based on official data.

Beijing is rolling out more support measures to avert a sharper slowdown, but many analysts do not expect activity to convincingly bottom out until summer.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang last week laid out a lower growth target of 6-6.5% this year, from 6.6% growth in 2018, which was already the slowest pace for nearly three decades.

China's own official factory survey, which is seasonally adjusted, showed manufacturing output contracted in February for the first time since January 2009.

However, retail sales remain near a 15-year low, said Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics in a note, adding that "the near-term outlook still looks downbeat".

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Fixed-asset investment rose 6.1% in the first two months, from 5.9% in 2018.

Retail sales increased by 8.2 percent year-on-year in the same period, unchanged from December, while industrial output went up 5.3 percent. Last year's holiday fell later, so its full effect was not felt during the two-month period.

Earlier this week, industry data showed automobile sales in China fell for the eighth consecutive month in February, adding to concerns about weaker consumer confidence. The unemployment rise comes as the growth of industrial production fell to its lowest rate in a decade of 5.3% in January, and down from 5.7% growth in December.

Expects economic growth to remain steady. Private investment accounts for about 60 percent of overall investment in China, and Beijing has spent considerable effort trying to ease financial strains on smaller, private firms.

President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he was in no rush to complete a trade pact with China and insisted that any deal include protection for intellectual property, a major sticking point between the two sides during months of negotiations.

But sales of appliances and furniture softened considerably early in the year, possibly linked to a 3.6 percent drop in home sales. This year's GDP growth target was set between 6 and 6.5 percent, according to the Government Work Report.


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