China’s prices rise slower than expected amid weak demand | Coronavirus pandemic

China’s consumer prices rose at a slower-than-expected pace in August while producer inflation hit an 18-month low, pointing to weak domestic demand in the world’s second-largest economy.

The consumer price index (CPI) increased 2.5 percent from the same month a year earlier, National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data showed on Friday, slower than 2.7 percent in July.

The producer price index (PPI) rose 2.3 percent, the slowest pace since February 2021, and slower than 4.2 percent a month prior, due to falling energy and raw materials prices.

“Factory gate inflation is set to fall further throughout the rest of the year thanks to a continued drop back in commodity prices and a higher base for comparison,” Capital Economics analysts Sheana Yue and Zichun Huang said in a research note.

“We think CPI inflation will remain below the PBOC’s 3 percent ceiling,” they said, referring to the People’s Bank of China.

Official and private data indicate further lost momentum in August in the Chinese economy, where property market weakness, COVID-19 containment measures and power shortages have dented consumption and factory activity.

There were 1,404 new COVID-19 infections in China on September 8, 301 of which were symptomatic, the National Health Commission said, while Chengdu has extended a lockdown for the majority of its more than 21 million citizens.

Policy easing

Slower growth in consumer prices came as food prices rose 6.1 percent on year in August, versus 6.3 percent in July, with non-food items at 1.7 percent from July’s 1.9 percent rise.

Core CPI, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, rose 0.8 percent, matching the previous month.

On a month-on-month basis, the CPI fell 0.1 percent from July, after rising 0.5 percent in July from June.

Overall industrial product prices maintained a downward trend due to falling prices in global crude oil and non-ferrous metals, NBS said separately.

While consumer inflation was approaching the government’s target of about 3 percent, it was still lower than seen in other major economies. The PBOC in August said China faces rising structural inflation pressure and consumer inflation might exceed 3 percent in some months in the second half of the year.

Analysts said slowing inflation could give some room for further monetary policy easing.

“As such, the PBOC will not be constrained to ease policy further to support economy,” said Yue and Huang. “The PBOC had lowered most policy rates in August, and we continue to anticipate more policy rate cuts during the rest of the year.”

China’s cabinet announced more steps on Thursday to spur investment, state media reported, extending a raft of measures to bolster an economy ravaged by COVID-19.

“We expect further easing will come in the form of quantity-based tools to provide liquidity support as well as structural tools like additional re-lending quotas for focus areas like manufacturing and green investment,” said HSBC economist Erin Xin.

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