China consumer prices drop for first time in over a decade

BEIJING (AFP) – China’s consumer prices dropped more than expected in November on falling food costs, with a key gauge turning negative for the first time in 11 years, according to official data released yesterday.

The consumer price index (CPI), a key gauge of retail inflation, fell 0.5 percent on-year due to a high base of comparison in the same period last year, said Beijing’s National Bureau of Statistics.

This continued a recent slide driven by easing prices of meat – whose prices rocketed after an African fever outbreak ravaged stocks.

Meat prices dropped 12.5 per cent, widening October’s fall and dragging the headline figure down, while other food items such as eggs, chicken and duck also saw a slide in prices compared with last year.

But core CPI, which strips out food and energy prices, “continued to remain stable”, rising 0.5 per cent from a year ago, official data showed.

China’s consumer price index, a key gauge of retail inflation, fell 0.5 per cent on-year for the first time in over a decade. PHOTO: AFP

Capital Economics’ senior China economist Julian Evans-Pritchard said November’s headline figure was “almost entirely driven by improvements in pork supply and isn’t evidence of faltering demand”.

“To the contrary, broader price pressures are starting to pick up on the back of the improvement in economic activity,” he added.

There was improvement in factory-gate prices, however, with the producer price index (PPI) falling 1.5 per cent on-year last month – a smaller drop than the 1.8 per cent fall a Bloomberg poll of analysts expected.

NBS senior statistician Dong Lijuan said “market demand continued to pick up, and industrial product prices continued to rise” in November.

PPI measures the cost of goods at the factory gate, and prices have been dragged by the coronavirus fallout.

OCBC Bank’s head of Greater China research Tommy Xie told AFP, “The improving PPI definitely reinforces the expectation that the Chinese (economic) recovery is on track.”