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Chinese inflation slows to 3.0 percent in November; export growth fuels record trade surplus: gov't

BEIJING -- Chinese inflation slowed to 3.0 percent in November to snap two months of acceleration in consumer prices, official figures showed Monday, well under the government's target for the year.

Analysts saw the result as largely positive for the world's second-largest economy, signaling no imminent need for authorities to tighten monetary policy.

The annual rise in the consumer price index (CPI), a main gauge of inflation, compared with an increase of 3.2 percent recorded in October, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) announced.

It was also lower than the median forecast of 3.1 percent by 11 economists in a Wall Street Journal survey reported by Dow Jones Newswires.

Inflation for the first 11 months of the year came in at 2.6 percent, far below the government's full-year target of 3.5 percent.

China's exports grew far more strongly than expected in November while import growth weakened, fuelling the country's biggest trade surplus in nearly five years, the government announced Sunday.

Exports increased 12.7 percent year-on-year to US$202.2 billion, the General Administration of Customs said.

Imports were up 5.3 percent year-on-year to US$168.4 billion, with the monthly trade surplus expanding to US$33.8 billion from US$31.1 billion in October — the biggest since January 2009.

The latest inflation and trade data came after China's economy snapped out of a first-half slump, with gross domestic product growth in the third quarter accelerating to 7.8 percent year-on-year after slowing during the first two quarters.

“Good news on the inflation front,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch economists Zhi Xiaojia and Lu Ting wrote in a report after the release of the price data.

“In the past few weeks markets have been worried that the PBoC could be forced to tame rising CPI inflation by tightening credit supply, evidenced by rising bond yields,” they added, referring to the People's Bank of China, the central bank.

But with the inflation slowdown and the producer price index (PPI), which measures prices for goods at the factory gate, continuing to fall, “markets could breathe a sigh of relief,” they said.

PPI fell 1.4 percent year-on-year in November, according to the NBS, maintaining a long string of decreases.

Month-on-month from October, the PPI was unchanged for a second consecutive month, after recording slight increases in August and September.

“As long as PPI inflation remains negative, there is little pass-through effect to CPI inflation,” ANZ bank economists Liu Li-Gang and Zhou Hao wrote in a report.

Sunday's strong trade data for November, which showed improved demand for Chinese exports in advanced economies, as well as a report earlier this month on Chinese manufacturing activity were also seen as positive signals for China.

“There are significant signs of improvement in the global economy,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch economist Lu and colleague Sylvia Sheng wrote in a separate report, citing in particular the United States, Britain and the eurozone economies.

Figures released by the NBS at the beginning of December showed that China's purchasing managers' index (PMI), a key measure of manufacturing activity, remained at a 19-month high.

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