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The FTSE 100 edged down in early trading as investors digested data showing a slowdown of growth in China's economy.

Official figures released overnight showed that China's economy grew at its slowest rate in almost three years.

Gross domestic product increased by a rate of 8.1 per cent in the first quarter, down from 8.9 per cent in the previous three months.

The data is particularly important for commodity stocks which rely on demand from China, the world's second largest economy.

Meanwhile in the UK factory gate inflation eased to a two-year low in March, official data showed, supporting hopes that price pressures are falling back as the Bank of England predicts.

Separate data from the Office for National Statistics showed that non-seasonally adjusted construction output rose 6.1 per cent in February.

Software company Sage Group was the biggest faller in London early trading, down 2.2 per cent.

Cruise ship giant Carnival, which had seen its stock recovering after the sinking of its liner the Costa Concordia, was down two per cent.

Meanwhile building contractor CRH was off by just over one per cent, while luxury retailer Burberry also eased off.

Among banks RBS was the biggest loser, down by 1.9 per cent, while Lloyds dipped by 1.1 per cent and Barclays 1.7 per cent.

There were few significant risers on the index with oil major Shell edging up by 0.8 per cent after confirming that there was no leak at a Gulf of Mexico platform as was feared.

Steelmaker Evraz was up by 0.6 per cent, while Rio Tinto was the pick of the miners, up 0.4 per cent.

Supermarket chain Morrisons put on 0.4 per cent.

The UK retail seen received a boost from John Lewis - which is a bellwether for the sector - said that its trading over Easter hade been "stunning".

In Asia the Nikkei closed up 1.1 per cent and the Hang Seng 1.8 per cent.