China's annual economic growth could slow to 7.5 percent in the second quarter, largely due to curbs on the property sector and headwinds from external demand, the State Information Center, a government think-tank, said in a report published on Friday.
If the GDP forecast is accurate, growth in the second three months of 2012 would be the slowest since the first quarter of 2009, when the global economy was in the grip of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
The forecast is in line with the government's official 2012 growth target of 7.5 percent which was set in March.
But a fall below 8 percent would worry many investors who regard that rate of growth as the minimum needed to ensure sufficient job creation for China's hundreds of millions of mainly poorly paid rural migrant workers.
The consensus estimate in the latest benchmark Reuters poll shows that private sector economists expect China's growth to ease to 7.9 percent in Q2 from an 8.1 percent annual rate in Q1. They forecast full year growth of 8.2 percent.
"The current economic slowdown is mainly a result of property tightening measures and weakening global demand, which are the pains China has to face in the process of adjusting its economic structure," the State Information Centre said in a report published in the official China Securities Journal.
The think-tank also said it expected inflation in the second quarter to ease to 3.3 percent, with factory gate inflation forecast to drop 0.6 percent during the same period.
China's annual consumer inflation moderated in April to 3.4 percent despite strong food price rises, potentially giving Beijing more scope to loosen economic policy to stop a slide in growth extending into a sixth consecutive quarter.
China has earmarked 26.5 billion yuan ($4.2 billion) in subsidies for energy-saving home appliances as part of steps to boost domestic consumption, the cabinet said on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Aileen Wang and Nick Edwards; Editing by Richard Pullin)