China's slowing wholesale deflation takes pressure off central bank

Tue Aug 9, 2016 4:17am EDT
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By Elias Glenn and Yawen Chen

BEIJING (Reuters) - 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, which has pushed up Shanghai rebar futures up by 50 percent this year.

The producer price index (PPI) fell 1.7 percent in July from a year ago, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Tuesday, smaller than June's 2.6 percent 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," said ANZ economists in a note.

Non-ferrous metals prices rose 2.8 percent month-on-month in July, while steel prices increased 0.4 percent.

Downstream prices, however, remained subdued in July with the consumer price inflation accelerating at its weakest pace in six months as food price gains slowed.

The consumer price index (CPI) rose 1.8 percent in July from a year earlier, compared with a 1.9 percent increase in June, and matching this year's low hit in January. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected a 1.8 percent gain.

Consumer inflation has remained well below China's official target of around 3 percent in 2016, despite concerns that severe summer flooding, which has disrupted public infrastructure and agricultural production, would increase inflationary pressures.   Continued...

A woman holds a bottle of alcohol product at a supermarket in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China, August 6, 2016. Picture taken August 6, 2016. China Daily/via REUTERS