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China revises up size of 2013 economy, sees no effect on 2014 growth

Labourers work at a construction site for a new building in Beijing December 17, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

By Kevin Yao

BEIJING (Reuters) - China revised up the size of its economy in 2013 but sees that having little effect on economic growth this year, amid expectations that Beijing may roll out more stimulus to support the slowing economy.

Gross domestic product was up 3.4 percent to an estimated 58.8 trillion yuan ($9.5 trillion) in 2013, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Friday, following a new economic census.

That marks a rise of 1.9 trillion yuan, or $305 billion, in the size of the Chinese economy that year, slightly below the entire gross domestic product of Malaysia during the same period, according to World Bank statistics.

The upward revision of GDP, which reflected greater contribution from the services sector that may create more jobs as factories struggle, will do little to ease pressures on the government to support the slowing economy, analysts say.

"The economy still faces downward pressure and the government is likely to lower its growth target for 2015," said Tang Jianwei, an economist at Bank of Communications who expected the government to maintain policy stimulus next year.

Services accounted for 46.9 percent of 2013 GDP, up from an initial estimate of 46.1 percent, while the secondary sector - which includes manufacturing and construction - accounted for 43.7 pct of GDP, down from 43.9 pct.

The third economic census, which was published earlier this week, showed that the services sector had expanded at a faster clip than the manufacturing sector between 2009 and 2013.

The statistics bureau said it was still revising the historical GDP data series, which could show revised economic growth for 2013 and previous years.

"The revision of 2013 GDP could affect the size of 2014 GDP but will basically not affect GDP growth for 2014," the bureau said in a statement.

Some analysts had previously expected the GDP revision to make it easier for the government to meet its growth target of around 7.5 percent in 2014.

The past two censuses led to a 16.8 percent revision to 2004 GDP size and a 4.4 percent increase in 2008.

China's economic growth weakened to 7.3 percent in the third quarter, and November's soft factory and investment figures suggest full-year growth will miss Beijing's 7.5 percent target and mark the weakest expansion in 24 years.

Economists who advise the government have recommended that China lower its growth target to around 7 percent in 2015.

The bureau did not say whether it had added research and development (R&D) spending into GDP or revised the way it calculates the value of "housing services".

"If they had chosen the new methodology, the final revised numbers would have been significantly higher, Angela Beibei Bao, China analyst at Rhodium Group in New York.

R&D spending, which is around 2 percent of GDP, is classified as a business cost, not investment, in China.

China has been trying to improve its statistical system amid widespread scepticism about the reliability of its data.

(Editing by Jacqueline Wong)