BEIJING, China – China’s struggle with deflation continues as the country’s consumer prices fell at the fastest rate in 15 years in January, posing challenges for the government’s efforts to revive the economy. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) fell 0.8% year on year in January, marking the fourth consecutive month of declines, as reported by official statistics released on Thursday. This decline was steeper than anticipated by analysts, highlighting the economic difficulties faced by the world’s second-largest economy.
The persistent decline in consumer prices signals a troubling period ahead for China’s economy and financial markets, according to Eswar Prasad, a professor of economics at Cornell University and former head of the IMF’s China division. In addition to the decline in consumer prices, the Producer Price Index (PPI) also dropped by 2.5% year on year in January, indicating an ongoing struggle with deflation.
The economic challenges have been further exacerbated by an extended property sector slump, a stock market meltdown, and weaker export revenue in China, adding to the concerns of policymakers. The decline in consumer prices has not only affected corporate earnings but also contributed to fueling a stock market rout, leading to the dismissal of the head of China’s market watchdog.
In response to the decline, economists are closely watching the annual “two sessions” of China’s rubber-stamp parliament and its main advisory committee in March, where the government is expected to outline its priorities for the year. Despite slightly exceeding the government target of 5.2% economic growth last year, China’s policymakers are facing the challenge of setting a GDP growth target of about 5% for the upcoming year. This target, if set, would be similar to the lowest target in decades, reflecting the severity of the economic situation.
As China grapples with deflation and a struggling stock market, it is clear that household demand and private sector confidence remain weak, posing significant risks to the economy’s growth prospects. The country’s PPI has been in decline for 16 consecutive months, a trend that is deeply concerning for the economic outlook. With the impact of the lunar new year holiday and fluctuation in international commodity prices, the likelihood of a positive turnaround in the short term remains uncertain.
China’s economic woes have far-reaching implications not only for the country but for the global economy as well. As the second-largest economy in the world, China’s economic performance has a significant impact on the international market. This underscores the need for sustained efforts to address the challenges and revitalize the economy, with a focus on boosting consumer confidence and market stability.