Leading economists agree with the central government that the pace of output growth will slow in the second half of the year. They are tipping full-year gross domestic product growth of 8 per cent, implying a sharp slowing from the 9.5 per cent recorded in the first half of the year. The government is less pessimistic. On Wednesday, Vice-Premier Zeng Peiyan forecast full-year GDP growth at 9 per cent. All but two of 99 economists surveyed by the National Development and Reform Commission expected GDP to grow by 8 per cent or slightly more. The economists warned of a risk that deflation would return and urged the government to relax measures designed to curb price rises. To stem inflation last year, the commission required local governments to put off raising utility prices if the consumer price index was deemed to be rising too rapidly. Most of the economists said they believed that inflation would be less than the central government's 4 per cent target this year. Half expected prices to rise between 2 and 2.5 per cent, Xinhua reported. They were evenly divided on the prospects for the mainland's property market. A third predicted further price rises, a third expected stability and a third thought prices would fall. More than 80 per cent of the economists expected per capita income of urban residents to rise faster than last year's 7.7 per cent. Meanwhile, the State Information Centre, a top government think-tank, has forecast the economy to grow by 9.3 per cent year on year in the third quarter. It predicted industrial value-added output would rise by 16 per cent, fixed-asset investment would be up 24 per cent, and retail sales would be 12.5 per cent higher, the China Securities Journal reported yesterday. The centre expects exports to grow 26 per cent and imports to grow by 14 per cent. In the first half, exports grew 32.7 per cent year on year and imports 14 per cent. Consumer prices are expected to rise 1.8 per cent year on year in the third quarter, lower than the 2.5 per cent growth in the first half. The centre said that private consumption would drive GDP growth in the third quarter, with growth in investment and trade slowing, following the appreciation of the yuan and restraints on a booming property sector. Beijing has been striving to rebalance the economy by taking steps to deter investment while promoting consumption.