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China’s inflation edges up in December

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Beijing, Jan 9 (AP) - China's consumer inflation edged up in December despite the slump in global oil prices but was still well below the official target. Prices rose 1.5 percent from a year earlier, up from November's 1.4 percent increase, government data showed Friday. That was driven by sharp increases in the price of some food items, including 14 percent for eggs and 10.4 percent for fresh fruit. For 2014, consumer prices rose 2 percent, well below the official target of 3.5 percent, according the National Bureau of Statistics. Lower inflation gives Beijing room to cut interest rates or take other steps, if needed, to revive growth that slowed to a five-year low of 7.3 percent in the quarter ending in September. The decline came despite the plunge in global oil prices over the past six months. Energy accounts for a smaller share of inflation in China, where families spend up to half their incomes on food, than in developed economies. "Although consumer price inflation has stabilized for now, we expect the fall in prices for oil and many agricultural commodities to push it slightly lower over the coming year," said Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics in a report. "Nonetheless, we don't expect it to fall to the levels currently seen in many developed countries." Producer prices, measured as goods leave the factory, fell by 0.6 percent from a year earlier, extending a lengthy period of declines blamed on excess production capacity in many industries.