China producer prices continue to fall, inflation still muted

Annual consumer inflation in China rises, although not enough to ease concerns over deflation

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

China's consumer inflation was more muted than expected in April and producer prices fell for the 37th consecutive month, adding to concerns over growing deflationary pressures which are likely to trigger further policy easing.

Annual consumer inflation picked up a shade to 1.5 percent in April, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Saturday, edging up from 1.4 percent in March but below the 1.6 percent predicted by analysts.

A seasonal jump in food prices aside, some economists said the figures pointed to moderate price pressures and lacklustre domestic demand in the world's second-largest economy.

Worried about China's economy, whose growth cooled to a six-year low of 7 percent in the first three months of this year, the central bank has cut interest rates and relaxed banks' reserve requirements four times in six months.

Indeed, the central bank acknowledged growth challenges on Friday when it said the economy faced headwinds and that the inflation outlook was benign, but ruled out the need for quantitative easing.

Wary about following in the footsteps of Japan, where a decade-long fall in consumer prices has hurt the economy, Chinese officials have warned about the danger of deflation, saying a cooldown in inflation to under 1 percent would raise red flags.

A Reuters poll in April showed analysts expect the central bank would cut interest rates by 25 basis points this quarter, and lower the reserve requirement ratio (RRR) by 100 basis points over the course of this year.

Many economists also expect more support measures for the ailing housing market. Data suggests that the recent flurry of policy easing has yet to stoke a rebound in activity.

Consumer inflation is still far short of Beijing's 3 percent target for 2015, and trade data released on Friday also pointed to entrenched weakness.

Worried about the risk of job losses, China's leaders are likely to resort to fiscal stimulus to revive growth, government economists told Reuters this week.

Data on industrial output, retail sales, investment and bank lending will be released next week. Economists had hoped those readings would show some signs the economy was stabilising.