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China announces 3rd fuel price cut in two months

(Xinhua)

09:30, July 11, 2012

BEIJING, July 10 (Xinhua) -- China will slash the benchmark retail price for gasoline by 420 yuan (66.46 U.S. dollars) per tonne and the price for diesel by 400 yuan per tonne starting from Wednesday, the country's top economic planner announced Tuesday.

The decreases, equivalent to 0.31 yuan per liter and 0.34 yuan per liter, respectively, mark the third fuel price cut in two months, as crude oil costs have continued to fall since China's most recent price cuts in June.

The move was made in response to lower international crude prices and changes in the "conditions of domestic and international economies, as well as the domestic refined oil market," the National Development and Reform Commission said in a statement on its website.

Under China's oil product pricing system introduced in 2009, domestic fuel prices may be adjusted when international crude oil prices fluctuate by more than 4 percent over a period of 22 working days.

The price cuts will help lower enterprises' operating costs, especially those in the transportation, agriculture and fishing industries, said Niu Li, an economist with the State Information Center, a government think tank.

The cuts came after recent data showed that prices have fallen across the Chinese economy, with the consumer price index (CPI), the main gauge of inflation, rising by a 29-month low of 2.2 percent in June from a year earlier.

The news of falling prices and a pledge by Premier Wen Jiabao to continue real estate regulation policies have weighed on the country's stock markets.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index edged down 0.29 percent on Tuesday after a 2.37-percent plunge on Monday.

Peng Wensheng, chief economist with China International Capital Corporation Limited, said the CPI will rise by just 1.6 percent in July, marking the slowest rate of increase since January 2010.

Chen Qing, an industry analyst for Zhuochuang Information Services, a domestic commodity information service provider, said the fuel price cuts will help lower July's CPI increase by 0.01 percentage points.

Shares of the country's two oil giants climbed hours before the announcement. PetroChina rose 1.13 percent to close at 8.96 yuan per share, and Sinopec gained 0.69 percent to 5.84 yuan.

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