While some of the Chinese activity indicators might have perked up, there is no hiding from the disinflationary pressure stalking China’s economy. April CPI dropped back to 3.3% yoy (4.3% in March) while PPI sunk to -3.1% from -1.5% in the previous month. And the problem would be even worse were it not for persistent food price pressures as the impact of the earlier swine flue epidemic continues to pressure meat prices. Indeed, CPI ex-food is now running at just 0.6%.
Disinflation resumed in December with consumer prices surprising to the downside. Headline and core both registered a 1.3% y/y gain, a decline from 1.5% and 1.7% respectively in November. In constant tax terms the decline was a little faster. On the producer price side there is scant evidence of any inflationary pressure. Although headline output prices edged up, core output prices - which are more closely correlated with CPI - ticked a little lower.
The strong upswing in Chinese consumer price inflation in November has a very straightforward explanation. The swine flu epidemic and the devastation this has inflicted on Chinese pig herds – reducing total numbers by over 40%. Indeed, meat prices are up 74% yoy, driven by pork which is now up 110% compared to the same period last year.
Consumer prices remained steady in June with prices actually falling m/m, which kept the y/y rate at 2.7%. The backdrop would have been more encouraging had swine flu not taken its toll on meat prices while fresh fruit and vegetables have also soared over the past few months.