China's economy grew far more than expected in the first quarter of 2024, data showed Tuesday, even as it continues to be buffeted by a property-sector crisis and flagging consumer activity.

For January-March, gross domestic product (GDP) reached 29.6 trillion yuan ($4 trillion) -- an increase of 5.3 percent, compared with 5.2 in the previous quarter, the National Bureau of Statistics said.

"The national economy continued the good momentum of a rebound," the NBS said, calling it a "good start".

Beijing last month set a target of around five percent growth for the year, a goal it admitted would "not be easy" and which analysts said was ambitious given the headwinds the country is confronting.

While such a rate would be the envy of most major economies, it would nonetheless be one of China's lowest since 1990, excluding the pandemic years.

The GDP data remains a key insight into the health of the world's second-largest economy, despite being eminently political.

Ratings agency Fitch last month downgraded the country's sovereign credit outlook to negative, warning of "increasing risks to China's public finance outlook" as it contends with more "uncertain economic prospects".

Growth is particularly hampered by sluggish confidence among households and businesses in the context of this economic uncertainty, which is hammering consumption.

But some sectors are doing well, notably services, driven by customers returning to restaurants, transport and tourist places.

However, both retail sales, the main indicator of household spending, and industrial output slumped last month, officials said.

Retail sales growth slowed to 3.1 percent year-on-year in March, down from 5.5 percent in the first two months of 2024.

Industrial production rose 4.5 percent, down from seven percent in January-February, official data showed.