China's factory output grew at the weakest pace in nearly six years in August while growth in other key sectors also cooled.

This has raised fears the world's second-largest economy may be at risk of a sharp slowdown unless Beijing takes fresh stimulus measures. 

The output data, combined with weaker readings in retail sales, investment and imports, pointed to a further loss of momentum as the cooling housing market increasingly drags on other sectors from cement to steel and saps consumer confidence. 

Chinese industrial output rose 6.9% in August from a year earlier.

This was the lowest since 2008 when the economy was buffeted by the global financial crisis and compared with expectations for 8.8% and slowing sharply from 9% in July. 

Some analysts believe annual economic growth may be sliding towards 7% in the third quarter, putting the government's full-year target of around 7.5% in jeopardy unless it takes more aggressive action. 

Experts reckon output growth of around 9% would be needed to attain such a goal. 

Reinforcing the tepid economic activity, China's power generation declined for the first time in four years, falling 2.2% in August from a year earlier, and pointing to slackening demand from major industrial users. 

Jiang Yuan, a senior statistician with the bureau, said the dip in August factory growth was due to weak global demand, especially from emerging markets, and the slowdown in the property sector that hit demand for steel, cement and vehicles. 

China's economy got off to a weak start this year as first-quarter growth cooled to an 18-month low of 7.4%. 

Beijing responded with a flurry of stimulus measures that pushed the pace up slightly to 7.5% in the second quarter, but soft July and August data suggest the boost from those steps is rapidly waning. 

Other activity indicators for August were also mostly weaker than expected. Retail sales climbed 11.9%, lagging forecasts of 12.1% and July's 12.2%, with growth in car sales in particular off sharply, suggesting consumers are more cautious.

Fixed-asset investment, an important driver of economic activity, grew 16.5% in the first eight months from the same period last year, lower than forecasts. Economists polled by Reuters had expected 16.9% growth, slowing from 17% in the months from January to July. 

Much of the broader decline appears linked to the slowdown in the property market, which is intensifying.

Property investment data also released on Saturday showed further declines in sales and new construction, while growth in sales of housing-related goods such as home appliances, furniture and building materials all slowed. 

Mortgage issuance in the first eight months fell 4.5% from a year earlier, worse than a 3.7% drop in January-July. 

Some would-be buyers have complained of long delays in getting loans as banks grow more cautious, while others may be holding off in anticipation of further price declines.

While most analysts expect Beijing to unveil more steps in coming months in order to meet its 2014 growth target, the room for policy loosening is seen as limited after past stimulus programmes left local governments saddled with piles of debt and fueled rampant speculation, especially in the housing market. 

Bolder action now, such as an interest rate cut, may only result in more money going into speculative and potentially destabilising activity rather the real economy, some analysts have noted.

The last time China suffered a "hard landing" was during the height of the global crisis, when economic growth tumbled to 6.6% in early 2009. 

That is far short of the near collapses which loomed over some developed economies, but still threw tens of millions of Chinese out of work, alarming the Communist Party's stability-obsessed leaders into action.

Despite slower growth, the economy still created 9.7 million new jobs in the first eight months of 2014, a rise of over 100,000 from the same period last year, said Guo Tongxin, another statistician at the bureau.

"It's normal to see fluctuations in some indicators. Currently, the employment and price situation remains generally stable (and) structural adjustments continue to make progress," Guo said in a statement.

Premier Li Keqiang said today that China cannot rely on loose credit to lift its economy, and reassured a business forum that Beijing would continue to roll out modest "targeted" measures as policymakers look to shore up growth.