Economic Watch: China's February CPI hits 13-month low, leaving room for macro control

Source: Xinhua| 2019-03-09 22:07:36|Editor: Yamei
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A citizen selects goods at a supermarket in Shexian County of Handan, north China's Hebei Province, March 9, 2019. China's consumer price index (CPI), a main gauge of inflation, rose 1.5 percent year on year in February, the National Bureau of Statistics said Saturday. (Xinhua/Hao Qunying)

BEIJING, March 9 (Xinhua) -- China on Saturday reported milder inflation in February, with consumer prices at the lowest level since January 2018, leaving room for authorities to maneuver macroeconomic-control policies.

Consumer price index (CPI), a main gauge of inflation, rose 1.5 percent year on year in February, compared with 1.7 percent growth in January, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed.

"The lower year-on-year CPI was largely due to a high comparison base in February last year, when CPI stood at 2.9 percent," said Deng Haiqing, chief economist at JZ Securities, adding that February's CPI is likely to be the lowest monthly reading this year.

Saturday's data also show Chinese consumers are upgrading their consumption habits as the CPI in service sectors such as education, entertainment and health care all rose over 2 percent year on year, said Xu Guoxiang, a professor at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics.

On a month-on-month basis, the CPI last month rose 1 percent from January and saw expansion for three months in a row, which exceeded market expectations.

Due to strong demand during the Spring Festival holiday as well as rainy and snowy weather in some parts of the country, the prices of fresh vegetables, fruits, and aquatic products saw significant growth last month, jumping 15.7 percent, 5.4 percent and 4 percent, respectively, from January. They contributed 0.58 percentage points to the month-on-month CPI growth.

Pork, mutton and beef prices also gained, rising 0.3 percent, 1.6 percent, and 0.6 percent, respectively, from one month earlier, while egg prices decreased 5.3 percent month on month due to abundant supplies.

Travel demands during the Spring Festival and the winter vacation also pushed the prices of tour agency services, plane tickets, hotel accommodation, and movie tickets higher, according to the NBS.

Gasoline and diesel prices rose 3.6 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively month on month, and costs for vehicle repair and maintenance added 5.1 percent.

Analysts said the CPI is expected to rebound to above 2 percent in March year on year, due to a low comparison base one year earlier.

China aims to keep CPI at around 3 percent in 2019.

Saturday's data also show that the producer price index (PPI), which measures costs of goods at the factory gate, edged up 0.1 percent year on year in February, unchanged from the growth recorded in January.

"The PPI reflects that China's pro-growth measures have taken effect, and the confidence of enterprises is recovering," said Zhang Liqun, a researcher with the Development Research Center of the State Council.

The mild inflation left enough room for authorities to maneuver macro-control policies, analysts said.

Tang Jianwei, an analyst with Bank of Communications financial research center, said he expects the country to make more targeted reserve requirement rate cuts to boost lending to private and small and micro enterprises.

China will keep its prudent monetary policy "neither too tight nor too loose" while maintaining market liquidity at a reasonably ample level in 2019, according to the annual Central Economic Work Conference held in December.