Inflation miracle

Carrie Lee

IF you are over the moon about the drop of China's consumer price index inflation November, come back down to earth.

It is wonderful for investors and mainland officials to believe the country's inflation has finally peaked, in the same way as it is for children to believe in Santa Claus.

But there is little evidence that a soft economic landing is on the horizon.

Just because the inflation indication represented the first fall in 18 months does not necessarily signal a downward trend as suggested by the State Statistics Bureau.

It can mark the beginning of a fickle roller-coaster pattern instead of a straight trend.

And even the Statistics Bureau itself - usually making figures appear in a good light - warned that the November indicator at 27.5 per cent was still unacceptably high.

Meanwhile, the amplitude of the drop - 0.2 per cent - does not exactly set a strong precedent.

The base for comparison was October when the index inflation hit 27.7 per cent, the highest year-on-year rate since the launching of China's economic reforms in 1979.

The November figure took the annual inflation rate based on consumer price index for the first 11 months to around 22 per cent, still more than double the state target of 10 per cent announced at the beginning of the year.

The optimists are confident of a slowdown in inflation next year, with one senior Chinese researcher going so far as tipping a rate of 13 to 15 per cent.

Their views may have been further strengthened by government officials at a national planning conference this week who pledged tighter fiscal policies next year to curb inflation.

However, some foreign economists maintain that the proposed measures can only have a limited impact next year especially if the government continues to avoid using strict monetary tools, such as interest rate rises, which would slow economic growth.