China’s Inflation Slows to 4.1 Percent

Posted January 12th, 2012 at 8:45 am (UTC-5)
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New economic figures released by the Chinese government indicate inflation rose in December at its slowest pace in 15 months, setting the stage for Beijing to further ease credit restrictions to support the slowing economy.

The National Bureau of Statistics said Thursday the consumer price index rose 4.1 percent in December compared to a year earlier. That was a little above market expectations of four percent. Inflation for all of 2011 stood at 5.4 percent.

Chinese inflation has slowed for five consecutive months after reaching a three-year high of 6.5 percent in July. China has taken steps in recent months to slow inflation, including a series of interest rate hikes and increases in the amount of cash that banks must hold in reserve.

Meanwhile, food prices – a key driver of inflation – continued to rise in December. The figures indicate that food prices increased by 9.1 percent in December, compared to November's 8.8 percent.

Chinese leaders have promised to maintain a “prudent” fiscal policy in 2012, and many observers expect Beijing to continue cautiously loosening policy to spur economic growth.

Some Chinese workers say rising food prices are putting stress on their budgets.

“It's just that the prices are rising too fast, and our salaries are rising too slowly. Like us elderly and senior people, we have very low salaries and income and we have retired. We cannot bear it anymore. We no longer dare to eat the things we want to eat.”

But some business owners, say the increased prices have had little impact on their budgets.

“The rise in prices from last year to this year has little effect for us business people. We earn as much as we should earn. I think the situation this year is better than last year. The prices have really fallen. It's really cheap.”

High inflation is a potential political problem for the country's ruling Communist Party, which faces a leadership transfer later in the year. Chinese media have reported that a number of small businesses have been forced to shut down or turn to underground lenders as a result of the inflation-fighting measures.

Analysts say the more moderate dip in inflation was partially driven by seasonal factors. Increased consumer spending during the unusually early Chinese New Year helped push up food prices.