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China Inflation Slows to 13-Month Low

March 9 (Bloomberg) -- China’s inflation slowed more than estimated to a 13-month low in February while factory-gate deflation deepened as prices cooled following a week-long holiday.

The consumer price index rose 2 percent from a year earlier, the National Bureau of Statistics said today in Beijing, compared with the 2.1 percent median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of analysts. The producer-price index fell 2 percent, more than estimated, extending to 24 months the longest decline since 1999.

Decelerating inflation and falling producer prices may give leaders more space to push ahead with the broadest economic-policy changes since the 1990s while also allowing them to loosen credit should growth slow too sharply. Premier Li Keqiang last week set a target for consumer inflation of about 3.5 percent this year, the same goal as in 2013.

Customs data yesterday showed China’s exports fell 18.1 percent in February from a year earlier, the biggest drop since the global financial crisis, and imports rose 10.1 percent, leaving the largest trade deficit in two years.

The PPI was projected to decline 1.9 percent, based on the median estimate of analysts, after a 1.6 percent drop in January. Consumer prices rose 2.5 percent in January from a year earlier. The CPI increased 2 percent in January 2013.

China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite Index last week had its first gain in three weeks, rising 0.1 percent, compared with a 0.9 percent increase in the MSCI Asia Pacific Index.

The nation’s economic data are distorted in January and February by the timing of the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, which began on Jan. 31 this year.

The statistics bureau will publish combined January-February data for industrial production, fixed-asset investment and retail sales on March 13. The central bank is due to report lending and money-supply figures for February over the coming week.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rachel Butt in Hong Kong at rbutt4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tan Hwee Ann at hatan@bloomberg.net; Paul Panckhurst at ppanckhurst@bloomberg.net Scott Lanman, Nerys Avery

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