Buried in China’s gross domestic product data this week was an inflation conundrum, writes Simon Rabinovitch in Beijing.
While most analysts pored over the numbers to get a sense of how growth was holding up, at least two spotted a large discrepancy between reported, and implied, price changes.
The gap is more than just an academic curiosity. It suggests that inflation is stronger than the government has been saying and could explain why Beijing has been so reluctant to loosen policy despite a slowing economy.
The broadest gauge of inflation, and the source of the discrepancy, is the GDP deflator, which measures the change in prices of end-products, whether used for consumption, investment or export. The deflator reduces the nominal growth rate to the real growth rate by stripping it of the effect of all of these price changes.
法国兴业银行(Société Générale)经济学家姚伟指出，第三季度中国隐含年度GDP平减指数达到10.3%，这是中国自1999年开始发布季度增长数据以来最高的。这个数据远高于同期6.3%的居民消费价格(CPI)。预测咨询机构朗伯德街研究(Lombard Street Research)的经济学家黛安娜?乔伊列娃(Diana Choyleva)发现，在季度环比基础上计算，上述差异则更大：GDP平减指数上涨3.8%，而CPI上涨1.5%。应该指出，在中国，GDP平减指数是一个奇特的数据，它一贯高于CPI数据，主要是因为投资是增长的主要组成部分，而且投资品价格的上涨速度一直比消费品快。
China chalked up an implied annual GDP deflator of 10.3 per cent in the third quarter, the highest since it started publishing quarterly growth figures in 1999, noted Wei Yao, an economist with Société Générale. That was well above the 6.3 per cent rise in the consumer price index during the same three months. Diana Choyleva, an economist with Lombard Street Research, the forecasting consultancy, found that the chasm was even bigger in quarter-on-quarter terms: the GDP deflator was up 3.8 per cent, while CPI was up 1.5 per cent. Now, the GDP deflator is an odd number in China. It consistently comes in higher than the CPI figure, mainly because investment is the dominant component in growth and the prices of investment goods have been rising faster than those for consumer goods.
But the gap between the deflator and CPI is usually innocuous. The fact that it could have grown to 4 percentage points on an annual basis and almost 10 percentage points on an annualised basis indicates that price pressures have probably been even more serious than previously believed in China.
Signs of slower growth have, to an extent, been welcomed by investors hoping that they could pave the way for a relaxation of monetary policy and a launch of fresh fiscal stimulus. Inflation is also beginning to slow. But if the deflator is right and inflation is slowing from a much higher level than officially reported, the policy shift may not materialise, disappointing markets. Ms Yao said: “The PBOC [People’s Bank of China] is probably aware of this problem and that is why they haven’t signalled any monetary policy easing yet, which is very sensible.”
2011-10-24 14:20 编辑：claudiaenglish