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Chinese CPI up 2.1 per cent in March

Food price inflation declines.

The Chinese consumer price index (CPI) grew by 2.1 per cent in March from a year earlier, down from 3.2 per cent in February as food prices declined due to the country’s Lunar New Year holiday season and drain of funds by the People’s Bank of China.

Food price inflation grew by 2.7 per cent, compared to a growth of 6 per cent in February.

The average increase in consumer prices in the first quarter of 2013 was 2.4 per cent, a marginal increase compared to the final quarter of 2012.

Jian Chang, an economist with Barclays, told the Financial Times: “Overall, the recovery has been moderate which helps to rein in the inflation pressure from the demand side. Recovery means a continued rise, so we have been saying it looks more like a growth stabilisation, a gradual and moderate improvement.”

The world's second-largest economy China rebounded to an annual growth of 7.9 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2012, after slowing at 7.4 per cent in the third quarter of 2012.

The People's Bank of China has drained cash from the economy for seven straight weeks since the Lunar New Year holiday ended in mid-February to counter inflationary pressure. However, withdrawals have been moderate.

Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People’s Bank of China, said in March that he was on high alert against prices increases and added that experience had taught him not to delay the fight against inflation.

A record amount of foreign currency entered the Chinese financial system in January 2013 and analysts say the central bank has had to step up its interventions in the foreign exchange market to keep the renminbi from appreciating, reported the Financial Times.

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Lord Geoffrey Howe dies, age 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.