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CPI to remain high before easing in 2nd half
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The consumer price index is expected to remain high in the first half of the year before easing in the second, Minister of Commerce Chen Deming said yesterday.

Prices will stabilize at a relatively high level in the coming months when the impact of snowstorms that hit parts of southern and central China in January and February fades, Chen told a press conference on the sidelines of the ongoing session of the National People's Congress, the lawmaking body.

The CPI - a key gauge of inflation - rose 8.7 percent in February, the highest since 1996, after hitting 7.1 percent in January.

An important cause of inflation was international price rises, especially for energy and agricultural products, Chen noted.

Figures from the International Monetary Fund show that the international price of crude oil increased 62.8 percent in February from a year earlier and the price of food rose 39.1 percent, which were "a major driving force" behind China's consumer price increases last month. "We are affected when we import energy resources, soybean and edible oil," Chen said.

He added that the weakening US dollar also pushed up the prices of raw materials, which may eventually be reflected in the prices of consumer goods.

The government has set the goal of keeping CPI at around 4.8 percent this year, the same level as last year. "One major task in macroeconomic regulation this year is to prevent prices from rising too fast," Premier Wen Jiabao said earlier.

(China Daily March 13, 2008)

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