China and U.S. inflation numbers arrive this week

02/14/2011 6:00 pm EST

Focus: STOCKS

Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor, JubakPicks.com

After lots of news about inflation in India, Brazil, Indonesia, and the European Union, this week we’ll get new inflation numbers from the United States and China.

China is scheduled to release inflation numbers for January on Tuesday, February 15. After running at a 5.2% annual rate in November, inflation fell to a 4.6% rate in December. The consensus is that inflation will rebound after that December decline but there’s disagreement on the size of the pickup. The consensus among economists points to a 5.3% inflation rate but a significant majority of traders thinks there’s a good chance that the rate will come at 4.9%. The National Bureau of Statistics is expected to reduce the weighting for food in China’s inflation numbers in January as part of its regular five-year adjustment to the way it calculates inflation. With food prices racing ahead of inflation in other sectors in China, a reduction in the weighting of food prices in the index would lower the overall inflation rate. The chance that this kind of technicality would convince anyone of a change in inflation would seem low except that traders were pointing to this thinking as a reason that stocks rallied in China on February 14. Stocks were up 0.8% in Hong Kong and 1.75% in Shanghai.

U.S. inflation figures are scheduled for release on Thursday, February 17. In December the Consumer Price Index moved up 0.5%, the biggest monthly gain since July 2009. But the move was driven almost entirely by a 4.6% gain in energy prices. Energy prices accounted for 0.4 percentage points of the 0.5% gain in the CPI. Stripping out energy and food prices, the core inflation rate hardly budged, rising just 0.1%.

The consensus among economists is calling for more of the same in the January numbers with the headline CPI projected to climb 0.3% and core inflation to show a 0.1% increase. Nothing there to change Federal Reserve policy or to roil the U.S. stock market.

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