BEIJING (AP) — China’s stubbornly high inflation fell in October, giving Beijing room to stimulate its economy amid weak U.S. and European growth.Consumer prices rose 5.5 per cent from a year ago, down from September’s 6.1 per cent, data showed Wednesday. Politically volatile food costs rose 11.9 per cent but that was down from the previous month’s 13.4 per cent.
The decline gives China’s leaders room to boost growth if necessary by reversing interest rate hikes and other curbs imposed to cool an overheated economy. Those controls squeezed entrepreneurs and fed fears the world’s second-largest economy might slow too abruptly at a time when hopes are pinned on relatively robust China to prop up global growth.
“Over the past year they had a single target — control inflation. But now that inflation is fading, they are going to focus on economic growth,” said Capital Economics analyst Qinwei Wang.
Beijing has hiked interest rates repeatedly and imposed investment curbs to cool growth that hit 10.3 per cent last year. But now that those measures are gaining traction, China faces the dual threats of plunging consumer demand in key U.S. and European export markets and a cooling real estate market, a key driver of growth.
A government clampdown on bank lending has squeezed entrepreneurs, adding to the pain of lower foreign sales and forcing thousands into bankruptcy. Beijing has promised to help them by selectively easing some credit controls, though it says curbs imposed to cool surging housing costs will stay in place.
Inflation peaked at a 37-month high of 6.5 per cent in July, driven by sharp rises in food costs caused by strong demand and summer flooding that damaged crops. Analysts expect inflation to ease further as the autumn harvest comes in, though the government says it will overshoot the official target of 4 per cent for the year.
Economic growth slowed to 9.1 per cent in the three months ending in September from 9.5 per cent the previous quarter. The International Monetary Fund is forecasting 9.5 per cent growth for the full year.