China inflation hits 8-month high amid tightening fear

BEIJING - China's annual consumer inflation climbed to an eight-month high of 3.2 per cent last month, driven by food prices, adding to market worries about policy tightening as the world's second-largest economy stabilises.

Inflation, which quickened slightly from 3.1 per cent in September, was lower than a median forecast of 3.3 per cent in a Reuters poll and was below the official target of 3.5 per cent for 2013.

"Although the CPI inflation was mainly pushed up by seasonal food demand, it may fuel market concerns that the central bank may tighten monetary conditions," said Shenyin & Wanguo Securities economist Li Huiyong in Shanghai.

The People's Bank of China (PBOC) refused to inject liquidity into the money markets at regular open market operations on Thursday, triggering worries it would start a new round of tightening in the next few months.

Data on Friday showed China's exports rebounded by more than expected last month, adding to signs the economy has found its footing as Beijing prepares its reform agenda for the next decade.

Few analysts, however, believe the central bank will rush to tighten policy amid the global uncertainties.

The PBOC has said it will maintain its prudent policy-setting with timely fine-tuning to keep the economy on an even keel while warding off inflationary risks.

The National Bureau of Statistics said food prices rose 6.5 per cent last month, quickening from 6.1 per cent in September.

China's producer prices fell 1.5 per cent last month from a year earlier - the 20th consecutive month of decline - versus a fall of 1.3 per cent in the previous month, the bureau said.