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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

China's year-end economic data dump presented an ambiguous picture of the world's second-largest economy that analysts chose to paint in various ways by cherry picking data points.

The big picture: When taken as a whole, the data reflects an economy that could be slowing or could be slowly turning from one driven by high-flying export growth to one sustained by a consumer-focused, service sector that Chinese government officials have declared they want.

What they're saying: Some have been ringing the alarm of an economic slowdown in China, pointing to historically weak readings.

  • China's economy expanded 6.6% in 2018 — the slowest annual pace the country has seen since 1990.
  • In the fourth quarter, GDP growth came in at 6.4% year-over-year, the slowest since 2009.

China's government has long been accused of padding the numbers on economic data, and some expect that weak readings like these are proof that the country's real economy is actually growing much more slowly.

Yes, but: Also included in the data dump are a collection of strong data releases that don't fit the falling dragon motif.

  • China's industrial output rose 5.7% year-over-year in December, more than the 5.3% economists were expecting.
  • Fixed asset investment rose 5.9% year-over-year, nearly matching economists' predictions of 6%.
  • Retail sales data rose 8.2% in December, up from November's 8.1% gain.
  • Production in high-tech industries, strategic emerging industries and equipment manufacturing expanded 11.7%, 8.9% and 8.1%, respectively.

What to watch: For U.S. businesses, a clearer picture of what's happening could come this week when companies with significant revenue from China — including Starbucks, Wynn Resorts and Ford — report quarterly results.

Go deeper: Other companies are feeling the heat in China's slowing market

Go deeper

Neera Tanden withdraws nomination for Office of Management and Budget director

Neera Tanden testifying before the Senate Budget Committee in Washington, D.C., in February 2021. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Neera Tanden withdrew her name from nomination to lead the Office of Management and Budget after several senators voiced opposition and concern about her qualifications and past combative tweets, President Biden announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: Tanden’s decision to pull her nomination marks Biden's first setback in filling out his Cabinet with a thin Democratic majority in the Senate.

What's ahead for the newest female CEOs

Jane Fraser (L) and Rosalind Brewer. Photos: Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images; Rodrigo Capote/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

The number of women at the helm of America’s biggest companies pales in comparison to men, but is newly growing — and their tasks are huge.

What's going on: Jane Fraser took over at Citigroup this week, the first woman to ever lead a major U.S. bank. Rosalind Brewer will take the reins at Walgreens in the coming weeks (March 15) — a company that's been run by white men for more than a century.

3 hours ago - Health

Biden says U.S. will have enough vaccines for 300 million adults by end of May

President Biden. Photo: Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images

President Biden on Tuesday said that ramped-up coronavirus vaccine production will provide enough doses for 300 million Americans by the end May.

Why it matters: That's two months sooner than Biden's previous promise of enough vaccines for all American adults by the end of July.

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