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China May data to suggest economy steadying but not perking up: poll

A worker walks through an aluminium ingots depot in Wuxi, Jiangsu province September 26, 2012. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

BEIJING (Reuters) - A flurry of data from China in coming weeks is expected to reinforce views that the world's second-largest economy is slowly steadying but not gaining momentum as investors hoped just a few months ago, a Reuters' poll of economists showed.

Increased government infrastructure spending and a housing recovery are supporting growth even as Beijing appears to be pulling in the reins on a record credit binge amid worries about the dangers of using too much debt to stimulate the economy.

Though investors' fears of a hard landing have ebbed, concerns remain that Beijing has not moved fast enough on key reforms such as cutting excess capacity, while debt continues to rise and the yuan currency comes under pressure.

Factory surveys earlier this week gave somewhat mixed signals on the health of manufacturing, with some signs of steadying but companies continuing to shed jobs in response to weak demand at home and abroad.

With the economy showing no signs of a quick recovery, analysts expect Beijing to keep up its infrastructure spending spree, but are dialing back expectations for further broad policy easing by the central bank.

"China’s policy easing momentum has already peaked. We think that the recent mix of government policy signals should be taken together, in light of policymakers' ongoing bid to achieve both its targets of stabilizing near-term growth and progressing on structural reforms," UBS analysts said in a note on Thursday.

Loan and money data could add to the debate over whether Beijing has shifted to a more cautious stance as debt climbs.

New loans are expected to pick up from April but remain well below the records in the first quarter. After lending hit a six-month low of 556 billion yuan (58.57 billion pounds) in April, new loans in May are forecast to total 750 billion yuan.

Growth in M2 money supply, however, may have fallen to an 11-month low, in line with recent calls from the government to reduce leverage. M2 was seen rising 12.5 percent in May from the same period a year earlier, down from 12.8 percent in April.

Trade is likely to remain weak, with exports expected to decline 3.6 percent, twice the pace seen in April. Imports may have fallen 6.0 percent, their 19th monthly decline in a row, though at a slower pace than April's 10.9 percent drop.

China's trade surplus is forecast to hit $58 billion in May.

Industrial output is expected to have increased 5.9 percent in May, slipping only marginally from April, as the government continues to approve new construction projects.

Investment and retail sales growth likely remained steady, while consumer inflation at 2.3 percent may also not show much change from April.

Producer deflation may show further signs of easing. Factory-gate prices are expected to have declined 3.3 percent, slower than April's 3.4 percent fall.

Forex reserves likely fell $20 billion to $3.2 trillion, after two months of marginal gains.

China has managed to stabilize foreign reserves after they fell a record $513 billion last year. But a stronger dollar, which is being fueled by expectations of a looming U.S. interest rate hike, has renewed concerns about downward pressure on the yuan and a possible resurgence in capital outflows.

The yuan fell 1.5 percent in May, its sharpest monthly drop since last August when the currency was devalued, leaving it near levels last seen in 2011.

Risks of a fresh bout of yuan volatility are rising as some investors employ creative strategies to bet on a fall in the Chinese currency.

(Reporting by Elias Glenn; Editing by Kim Coghill)