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China consumer prices up 2 pct in 2014

(Xinhua)    09:58, January 09, 2015

BEIJING - China's consumer prices grew 2 percent in 2014 from one year earlier, well below the government's 3.5 percent target set for the year, official data showed on Friday.

The increase was also below the 2.6-percent growth registered in 2013.

Growth in the consumer price index (CPI), the main gauge of inflation, rebounded to 1.5 percent in December from November's 1.4-percent rise, its slowest increase since November 2009.

On a monthly basis, December's CPI edged up 0.3 percent against the previous month, reversing a downward trend reported since September.

Economists urge caution in debate over stagnation

Secular stagnation hung over the annual meeting of more than 5,000 economists from around the world this past weekend--as a description of the economy and not as comment on the liveliness of the cocktail parties.

Support for the thesis that the industrial world is mired in a prolonged period of slow or no growth was dimmed, though not banished, by the recent strength of the United States economy.

A standing-room only crowd packed a hotel ballroom on Saturday to hear two leading proponents of the proposal, Professors Lawrence Summers of Harvard University and Robert Gordon of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, defend their views.

"Just because we have 5 percent growth doesn't mean we are out of the woods," Summers, a former Treasury secretary and senior White House official, told the American Economic Association meeting in Boston, alluding to the US economy's pace of expansion in the third quarter.

He rattled off a variety of reasons for caution. Among them: the risk of financial bubbles, the difficulties the Federal Reserve may face in raising interest rates back to more normal levels, and continued excess capacity in Japan and Europe.

Summers also compared the euro area's situation today with that of Japan in the late 1990s, before it slipped into a deflationary funk, and warned that the US could be in for an extended period of a "dismal growth rate below 1-1/2 percent."

Fellow Harvard professor Greg Mankiw took issue with that gloomy prognosis as far as the US is concerned. In particular, he highlighted the improving labor market, where unemployment is at a six-year low and wages have begun to rise.

"We are returning to normalcy," said Mankiw, who is also chairman of the economics department at Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts and a former chief White House economist.

The outcome of the debate over secular stagnation has widespread ramifications for the economies and societies of industrial countries.

Meager growth raises the risk of economies falling into deflation while making it harder for governments to reduce budget deficits and debt as tax revenue falls and spending rises. It would also depress living standards.

There is "growing evidence of socioeconomic decay" as the US economy struggles, Gordon said, pointing to the rise in the prison population and "the enormous increase in the number of children born outside of wedlock".

He said that the US economy will be held back by slow growth both of productivity and the labor force.

"The fruits of the third industrial revolution" in information technology "may be coming to an end", said Gordon, who is a member of the economic panel that dates the start and finish of US recessions.

The productivity of non-farm business workers has risen an average 1 percent per year since the start of 2010, less than half the rate over the past 15 years, according to data from the Labor Department in Washington.

There has certainly been secular stagnation when it comes to the average, inflation-adjusted earnings of households, which have been essentially flat since around 2000, Robert Hall of Stanford University in California told the conference.

Hall, who heads the recession-dating panel of the National Bureau of Economic Research, highlighted the drop in labor-force participation and said much of the decline has occurred in upper-income households.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Liang Jun,Bianji)

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