BEIJING • China's factory price deflation moderated further in July, with prices falling at their slowest pace in two years, taking pressure off the central bank to cut rates as policymakers turn their focus to structural reforms and ballooning credit.
A government-led building spree has increased demand for construction materials, but higher prices are also due in part to speculation in China's commodities futures market.
The producer price index (PPI) fell 1.7 per cent in July from a year ago, the National Bureau of Statistics said yesterday, smaller than June's 2.6 per cent decline.
Analysts expect producer price inflation to turn positive this year for the first time in more than four years, but the recovery at the factory gate is unlikely to lead to a rebound in private investment, which has fallen to record low growth rates.
"The improvement of PPI should benefit the corporate sector's profitability but is unlikely to encourage private sector investment, as the main beneficiaries are heavy industries - which are dominated by state-owned enterprises," ANZ economists said in a note.
The consumer price index (CPI) rose 1.8 per cent in July from a year earlier, compared with a 1.9 per cent increase in June, matching this year's low hit in January.
PRODUCER PRICE INDEX
Fall in producer price index (PPI) in July, from a year ago
Decline in PPI in June
CONSUMER PRICE INDEX
Rise in consumer price index (CPI) in July, from a year earlier
CPI increase in June
Consumer inflation has remained well below China's official target of around 3 per cent this year, despite concerns that severe summer flooding, which has disrupted public infrastructure and agricultural production, would increase inflationary pressures.
Food prices continued to moderate, rising 3.3 per cent in July compared with a 4.6 per cent gain in June. Prices of pork rose only 16.1 per cent versus a 30.1 per cent increase in June as demand for the Chinese staple meat continued to cool from peaks hit earlier this year.
Non-food inflation, however, rose 1.4 per cent compared with June's 1.2 per cent gain.
Healthcare costs rose 4.3 per cent year-on-year in July, up from a 3.8 per cent gain in June, which Merchants Securities economist Yan Ling in Shenzhen said reflects a wider improvement in demand for such products. Similarly, rises in other price categories showed increasing demand for a wider range of consumer goods and services including horticulture, pet care and retirement services, he said.
Low inflation means Beijing has room to loosen monetary policy if needed, but policymakers appear to have disparate views on how much stimulus, if any, is needed to stoke economic growth and what form it should take.
However, the strengthening producer prices mean there is likely less need to ease in the short term, analysts say. China's central bank has not adjusted interest rates since October last year.