April 9th, 2012
09:52 AM GMT
(Image credit: Getty Images)
Hong Kong (CNN) -– If you’re a glass “half full” or a glass “half empty” kind of person, you’ll see what you want to see in China’s latest inflation number. The hard number: March CPI came in at 3.6%.
On the positive side, March is the second month in a row that inflation was below 4%. Last month, China’s Premier Wen Jiabao announced a 4% inflation target for the country.
But on the negative side, March’s 3.6% inflation number is higher than what analysts had forecast. Many had thought it would come in lower – around the range of 3.2% to 3.4%.
The main reason for March’s higher-than-forecast CPI is the rising cost of food.
Food prices rose 7.5% year-on-year in March. Fresh vegetables jumped 20% in the same time frame. But one source of relief has been in the easing price of pork. The price of China’s staple meat fell nearly 2% in March. Compare that to a rise of more than 20% for all of 2011.
Looking ahead, China’s leaders may be wondering whether to relax the country’s monetary policy or to leave it where it is.
While we wait for new pronouncements on policy action, various investment banks are already tossing their two cents into the ring.
Goldman Sachs released a research note saying it still does expect more easing – but March’s higher-than-expected CPI could limit the magnitude of any intervention.
HSBC also released a note saying it expects a 1% point cut to the reserve requirement that Chinese banks are required to hold – from 20.5% to 19.5% – sometime before July.
The belief is that inflation will continue to ease and that March’s higher CPI was more a blip than a barometer of things to come.
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