China’s economic growth held steady at 7.3 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, slightly better than expected but still hovering at its weakest since the global financial crisis, keeping pressure on policymakers to head off a sharper slowdown.

The world’s second-largest economy grew 7.4 percent in the whole of 2014, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Tuesday, undershooting the government’s 7.5 percent target and marking the weakest expansion in 24 years, further clouding the picture for global demand.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected fourth-quarter growth to cool to 7.2 percent from 7.3 percent in the third quarter, hitting the lowest since the first quarter of 2009, when growth slowed sharply to 6.6 percent.

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