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China's April inflation rises more than expected

BEIJING China's inflation rose slightly in April amid concern about the strength of its economic recovery.

Consumer prices rose 2.4 percent over a year earlier, up from March's 2.1 percent gain, data showed Thursday. A more modest 2.2 percent increase had been expected. That still is well below the government's target of 3.5 percent for the year.

Inflation is forecast to rise gradually as a shaky economic recovery boosts consumer demand. But mixed signals about factory activity, which slowed in April, and doubts about the strength of trade have raised questions about whether the recovery is gaining traction.

The world's second-largest economy is limping out of its deepest slump since the 2008 global crisis. Growth unexpectedly declined to 7.7 percent in the first three months of this year from 7.9 percent the previous quarter. Analysts say the economy is being shored up by state-led investment and bank lending and could be vulnerable if trade or investment weakens.

Government data showed April trade growth accelerating but analysts said export figures might be inflated and the recovery might be weaker than it looks.

The government's growth target for the year is 7.5 percent, above Western levels but well below China's double-digit rates of the past decade.

The weak first-quarter figures prompted the World Bank and private sector forecasters to cut full-year growth outlooks, though to still-robust levels of about 8 percent.

April's price rise was driven by a 4 percent gain in food costs, up from March's 2.7 percent rate. Food prices are especially sensitive in a society where families spend one-third to half their incomes to eat.

Wholesale prices fell 2.6 percent from a year earlier, accelerating from March's 1.9 percent decline.

Some analysts say inflation might be restrained due to the impact of orders by President Xi Jinping to Communist Party officials to cut spending on banquets and other frills to mollify public anger about corruption.