China Nov inflation bounces off 33-month lows

BEIJING Sun Dec 9, 2012 8:18am IST

A woman serves customers at a jewellery stand at a shopping mall in central Beijing December 6, 2012. REUTERS/David Gray

A woman serves customers at a jewellery stand at a shopping mall in central Beijing December 6, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/David Gray

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BEIJING (Reuters) - China's annual consumer inflation rebounded from 33-month lows to 2 percent in November, dimming the chance for more monetary policy easing as its economy recovers.

Sunday's data missed analysts' expectations for November inflation to quicken to five-month highs of 2.1 percent from October's 1.7 percent. Food was the key driver of consumer prices last month, with vegetable prices jumping 11.3 percent.

"We expect consumer inflation to not see a big rebound until the first quarter of next year," said Jiang Chao, an analyst at Guotai Junan Securities in Shanghai.

"Therefore, the central bank may stick to its current policy stance and we see little chance of further (policy) loosening towards the year end."

Rebounding price pressures underscore signs that the world's second-biggest economy is turning the corner after a protracted cooldown and will prompt the central bank to focus on containing inflation risks, a policy priority in normal times.

As China's economy breaks away from central planning and as wages rise on average at least 10 percent each year, the central bank has warned inflation will be the biggest long-term risk, a point reiterated by Governor Zhou Xiaochuan last month.

November's data showed price momentum was gathering even in factories.

Factory-gate prices fell 2.2 percent in November from a year earlier, easing from October's 2.8 percent annual drop and boding well for firms struggling with falling profits. Analysts had forecast producer price deflation of 2 percent.

China's producer prices have dropped for nine straight months in reflection of an economic downturn stretching seven consecutive quarters on the back of wilting export growth and lethargic domestic demand.

Economic growth hit a low of 7.4 percent between July and September and is poised for the weakest annual showing this year since 1999.

But things are looking up due in part to policy easing by the central bank, and analysts expect a raft of data due at 0530 GMT to show the economy gained steam in November.

China's central bank cut interest rates twice in June and July and lowered banks' reserve requirement ratio (RRR) three times since late 2011, freeing an estimated 1.2 trillion yuan for boosting loans.

But it has not cut interest rates or RRR since July and has instead added short-term cash to the banking system through open market operations, a move analysts say underlines its worries about consumer and property price inflation.

(Reporting by Aileen Wang and Koh Gui Qing; Editing by Paul Tait)

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