BEIJING -- A 50-city quarterly survey conducted by the People's Bank of China (PBOC) found that in the first quarter, 49.2 percent of the 20,000 respondents said prices had become intolerable.
According to the results, released on Thursday, the proportion was a record high, up from 25.9 percent in the first quarter of 2007.
The central bank's report said that 47.5 percent of the respondents felt prices were rather high but still tolerable, down 16.6 percentage points from a year earlier.
It attributed the changes to recent price rises for food and the impact of the severe winter weather on prices of grain, edible oil, vegetables and fruits in southern China.
The PBOC said that 64.8 percent of the respondents expected further price rises in the second quarter, down 15.9 percentage points from a quarter earlier.
The report also said that 35.2 percent of the respondents said their incomes had increased, up 6.7 percentage points from the fourth quarter but two percentage points lower than the record, which was set in the first quarter of 2007.
About 22.6 percent of those surveyed were confident about their future income, down 3.2 percentage points from a quarter earlier.
As to interest rates, those who were satisfied with current levels -- following several central-bank increases -- accounted for 51.4 percent in the first quarter, up 11.8 percentage points from a year earlier.
The report found that 35.4 percent of those surveyed generally put their money into banks, up 5.2 percentage points from the quarter-earlier level, and that 27.6 percent tended to invest in stocks and mutual funds, down 8.2 percentage points quarter-on-quarter.
In a related development, the PBOC survey of 5,485 entrepreneurs found the confidence index went up 0.6 percentage points to 77.4 percent in the first quarter. Among this group, 19.3 percent considered the economy to be overheating, down from 21.6 percent a quarter earlier.