Policy shift unlikely despite ease in inflation

Updated: 2011-10-14 20:38


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BEIJING - Inflation in China continued to ease from a 37-month high for a second month in September, but remaining inflationary pressures limit the possibility of a shift in macro-economic policy.

The country's consumer price index (CPI), a main gauge of inflation, climbed 6.1 percent year-on-year in September from 6.2 percent in August, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said Friday.

On a monthly basis, consumer prices rose 0.5 percent last month, the NBS said in a statement on its website.

In the first nine months of this year, China's CPI climbed 5.7 percent from the same period last year, up from 5.4 percent year-on-year in the first half, said the NBS.

Food prices, which account for nearly one-third of the basket of goods in the nation's CPI calculation, were up 13.4 percent in September from the previous year and 1.1 percent month-on-month, according to the NBS.

China's CPI hit a 37-month high of 6.5 percent in July, extending far beyond the Chinese government's full-year target of 4 percent for 2011.

Zhou Wangjun, deputy chief of the Price Department of China's price regulator the National Development and Reform Commission, said China's inflation has passed its peak, and consumer prices will stabilize and decline mildly in future.

Zhou sees the downward trend as a result of the government's amping up cooling measures and reducing carryover effects, he said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.

Economists said that although the September CPI remained high, they expect domestic inflation to continue to ease in the coming months as a slowdown in the global economy weighs down demand, said economists.

"Price growth will continue to ease in October, but it will not be a significant decline," said Liu Yuanchun, deputy head of the School of Economics of the Renmin University of China.

Liu attributed the weakening inflation to the good autumn grain harvest, a significant drop in international commodity prices, a further slowdown in the global economy and a future strain in liquidity.

For the first time in 16 months, the Chinese government reduced retail prices for gasoline and diesel by 300 yuan (about $47) per tonne starting Monday, a move expected to ease domestic inflation.

Zhang Liqun, a researcher with the Development Research Center of the State Council, or China's Cabinet, also believes that the good autumn harvest will bring more supplies to ease food prices.

Zhang estimates that, for the whole year, China's consumer price will grow by 5 percent from last year, one percentage point higher than the government's target.

"The government has underestimated this year's new price factors, especially the hike in domestic pork prices and international commodities," he said.

Unshaken tightening policy

Despite the downward trend, it is too soon to determine whether China's macro-economic policy will loosen as many believe that inflationary pressures are far from being completely eased.

In the interview with Xinhua, Zhou Wangjun warned of emerging price factors that could push up future price levels, including an imbalance in market supply and demand and higher labor costs.

Additionally, business owners, especially those of small- and medium-sized enterprises, are facing pressure from higher costs in funding and production, which will be reflected in a rise in prices for small commodities like shoes and toys, said Zhou.

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