China December inflation edges up as expected, producer prices still in deflation

Fri Jan 8, 2016 10:53pm EST
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By Xiaoyi Shao and Pete Sweeney

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's consumer inflation barely edged up in December while companies' factory-gate prices continued to fall, adding to concerns about growing deflation risks in the world's second-largest economy.

In line with sluggish activity, China's consumer inflation quickened slightly to 1.6 percent year-on-year in December, as expected, compared with 1.5 percent the previous month.

The producer price index was unchanged at minus 5.9 percent in December, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Saturday, slightly above forecasts but marking a 46th straight month of declines and highlighting the deeply entrenched pressures facing China's manufacturers as the economy cools.

"The inflation profile remains soft and the continuous PPI deflation suggests that Chinese companies will have to reduce their debt as further expansion in many industries will only lead to more loss," wrote Zhou Hao, economist at Commerzbank in Singapore.

An official survey last week showed China's manufacturing sector contracted for a fifth straight month in December and factories continued to shed jobs, dampening hopes that the economy will enter 2016 on steadier footing.

China Beige Book International (CBB) said in its latest private survey that growth in input prices and sales prices for Chinese firms slipped to record lows in the fourth quarter.

"For the first time, it looked like firms were encountering genuinely harmful deflation," the private survey said. That opinion was echoed by other economists.

The risk of entrenched deflation is a nightmare for China, which desperately wants to avoid becoming stuck in a trap where falling prices sap economic vitality.   Continued...

A customer selects vegetables at a supermarket in Fuyang, Anhui province, China, December 9, 2015. REUTERS/China Daily