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Central bank says March CPI to hit 8.3%
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China's March consumer price index rose an estimated 8.3 percent, with first-quarter inflation of about 8 percent, the deputy governor of the People's Bank of China, Liu Shiyu, said in Shanghai over the weekend.

Liu, who disclosed the figures in a speech delivered at the fourth Network of East Asian Think-Tanks Conference on Financial Cooperation, noted that China's high inflation is a main challenge in this year's macro-economic agenda.

He was quoting central bank preliminary internal research data but the bank stressed to reporters after the meeting that the figures are not the official statistics.

The National Bureau of Statistics is due to release China's March inflation on Thursday. The CPI, the main gauge of inflation, raced to 8.7 percent in February, the highest in 11 years. The central government plans to keep inflation within 4.8 percent this year.

Responding to questions over whether the central bank will raise interest rates to curb high inflation, Liu said research is continuing. He also said that the slight slowdown in March inflation was due to "seasonal reasons."

The central bank has raised lenders' reserve requirements to a record high of 15.5 percent to rein in lending, limit loan growth and use the yuan as a second means of taming inflation.

China's M2, the broadest measure of money supply, rose 16.3 percent in March - the lowest expansion in more than a year. The yuan has risen more than 4 percent this year.

"Consumer inflation probably stayed high in March on costly food while non-food prices picked up pace," said Shen Minggao, a Citi economist. "We continue to believe that the estimated 8 percent CPI rate in the first quarter will mark the peak of inflation this year."'

Citi forecasts a March inflation of 8.3 percent while Goldman Sachs sees 8.4 percent.

(Shanghai Daily April 14, 2008)

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