China central bank scholar sees GDP growth up to 7.3 per cent in 2015: Xinhua

SHANGHAI - China's economic growth may be as high as 7.3 per cent this year, partly due to falling commodity prices, the official Xinhua news agency quoted an academic advisor to the central bank's monetary policy committee as saying on Saturday.

Song Guoqing was also quoted telling a forum that China's consumer price index may rise in 2015 by about 1.6 per cent, saying the sharp decline in prices of commodities including crude oil, iron ore and copper presented "a large bonus" for the economy.

Xinhua said Song's views were echoed by Ma Jun, chief economist of the People's Bank of China's (PBOC) research bureau.

The central bank had said in a report seen by Reuters in mid-December China's economic growth could slow to 7.1 per cent in 2015 from an expected 7.4 per cent last year.

China's annual economic growth likely slowed to 7.2 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year, the weakest since the depths of the global crisis, a Reuters poll in early January showed, which would keep pressure on policymakers to head off a sharper slowdown this year.

The expected slowdown in growth of the world's second-largest economy, from 7.3 per cent in the June-September quarter, means the full-year figure would undershoot the government's 7.5 per cent target and mark the weakest expansion in 24 years.

China's reform-minded leaders have shown greater tolerance of slower growth, but a further slowdown could fuel job losses and undermine public support for changes.

The PBOC unexpectedly cut interest rates in November for the first time in more than two years, aiming to lower borrowing costs and support growth. Later, it loosened loan restrictions to encourage banks to step up lending.

At the forum, Ma estimated annual gross domestic output growth would increase by 0.12 percentage point if the price of crude oil drops by 10 per cent year on year, Xinhua said.

The government is expected to announce fourth-quarter GDP on Jan. 20.