(Clarifies that media source was website of Phoenix TV)
* Reported inflation is higher than market expectations
* Comes as Premier Wen warns against inflation risks
* Could put pressure on c.bank to tighten policy (Adds details, background)
BEIJING, April 14 (Reuters) - Chinese inflation in March accelerated to as fast as 5.4 percent from a year earlier, Hong Kong media said on Thursday, reinforcing the government’s vow to rein in price rises.
Economists polled by Reuters had expected annual inflation in March to be 5.2 percent, up from February’s 4.9 percent.
The website of Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV, citing an unnamed source, said the annual rate of inflation in March was likely to be 5.3-5.4 percent, a 32-month high.
The government has vowed to use all tools at its disposal, including bank reserve requirements, interest rates and the yuan’s exchange rate, to wrestle inflation under control, Xinhua said on Wednesday. [ID:nL3E7FD1LJ]
Premier Wen Jiabao pledged to make the yuan more flexible to rein in price rises driven by imported inflation, the Xinhua news agency said on Thursday. [ID:nL3E7FE065]
Wen warned about elevated inflation risks due to soaring global commodity and oil prices.
“The commentary from the State Council and Premier Wen do suggest another rate hike, and we see one later this quarter,” Dariusz Kowalczyk, senior economist & strategist at Credit Agricole CIB, said in a note.
China’s central bank has increased benchmark interest rates four times since last October and has required the country’s big banks to put a record high of 20.0 percent of their deposits with the central bank as reserves. [ID:nTOE722076]
Phoenix TV’s website also reported that 680 billion yuan ($104.1 billion) of new yuan loans were issued in March, while M2 money supply grew 16.6 percent that month from a year ago.
Producer prices in March rose 7.4 percent from a year earlier while industrial output and retail sales grew 14.8 percent and 17.4 percent, respectively, it said.
$1 = 6.533 yuan Reporting by Zhou Xin and Kevin Yao; Editing by Jacqueline Wong