China's annual consumer inflation eased to its slowest pace in nearly three years in October, official data showed on Friday, giving policymakers scope to further loosen monetary policy if needed to support growth in the world's second-biggest economy.
The consumer price index rose 1.7 percent from a year ago, slower than the 1.9 percent posted in September. Economists polled by Reuters had expected inflation to hold steady.
Data due at 0530 GMT is expected to point to a strengthening in October of China's recovery from its slowest period of growth since early 2009, and may cement investor expectations that policymakers have done enough to ensure the economy rides a cyclical rebound.
I don't expect any easing in monetary policy until the end of this year because it would be unnecessary as the economy is recovering, Yao Wei, China economist at Societe Generale in Hong Kong, told Reuters.
The consensus view among economists is that a seven-quarter long cyclical downturn in China's growth ended in Q3, when it dipped to 7.4 percent year-on-year.
A tepid rebound to 7.7 percent is anticipated in Q4, with its mild nature restraining many investors from making aggressive turnaround bets, as evidenced by 10 of the 27 analysts polled by Reuters having forecasts below the median.
Fixed asset investment and industrial production growth are the key numbers to watch in Friday's releases, as they are barometers of both domestic activity and output from China's export-oriented factory sector. Retail sales data is also due.
Diverse indicators such as ethylene production, highway investment and machine-tools output all point to an imminent stabilization. We expect this afternoon's activity readings to fall in line, Alistair Thornton, China economist at IHS Global Insight in Beijing, wrote in a note to clients.
BEARS IN RETREAT?
If the read-outs offer more evidence supporting a rebound in the final three months of 2012, it could be a turning point for investors who have been bearish on China after seven successive quarters of slowing annual growth.
October likely saw a 9.4 percent year-on-year rise in industrial output, according to the consensus forecast from a Reuters poll.
That would be a small improvement on the 9.2 percent growth achieved in September which - along with a tick higher to 20.5 percent in year-to-date fixed asset investment growth - analysts see as flagging a potential turning point for China's economy.
Friday's inflation numbers also showed factory-gate prices in October fell 2.8 percent from a year earlier, a touch