082314chinaChina’s economy is likely to miss Beijing’s growth target for the first time since the Asian financial crisis at the end of the last century, after official figures showed the country’s seismic manufacturing sector barely grew in December. A housing market slump and attempts to rebalance China’s heavily investment-dependent economy have held back growth this year, and data on Tuesday showed factory output expanding at its slowest rate for 18 months. The government’s Purchasing Managers’ Index – a survey of private sector manufacturing companies – fell from 50.3 in November to 50.1 in December. This was only just above the 50 point mark that separates growth from decline, and the lowest since June 2013. The figures added weight to suggestions that the economy has missed a government-set growth target of 7.5pc for this first time since 1999. Most economists now expect the economy to have grown 7.4pc in 2014 – the slowest since 1990. More