China's annual consumer inflation crept up to a seven-month high of 3.1 percent in September from 2.6 percent in August, official data showed on Monday, limiting the scope for the central bank to manoeuvre to support the economy.
The inflation rate was higher than a median forecast of 2.9 percent in a Reuters poll, but was still below the official target of 3.5 percent target for 2013.
(Read more: China's September exports in surprise slump)
Month-on-month, consumer prices rose 0.8 percent, the National Bureau of Statistics said, bigger than a rise of 0.5 percent expected by economists.
"We expect CPI inflation to rise further in Q4 and see rising risks that it may rise above 3.5 percent for some months in 2014," said Zhiwei Zhang, China economist at Nomura in Hong Kong.
"The rise of CPI inflation leaves little room for policy easing as benchmark deposit rate is only 3 percent."
At the same time, analysts see little risk of a near-term tightening given inflation was below the full-year target and because the world's second-largest economy faces a tough global environment.
(Read more: China's export engine may have stalled in September)
China's exports dropped 0.3 percent in September from a year earlier, against expectations of a 6 percent rise, data showed on Saturday.
"September CPI inflation gained more momentum on seasonal factors and a low base effect from last year," said Li Huiyong, an economist at Shenyin & Wanguo Securities in Shanghai.
"But we think the inflation situation is still under well control and will not be a concern this year, especially when the economy is struggling with over-capacity problems."
The statistics bureau said factory-gate deflation eased further in September. Producer prices fell 1.3 percent from a year earlier, a smaller fall than the 1.4 percent expected by the market and the 1.6 percent drop in August.
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Still, producer prices have fallen for 19th consecutive months. China's annual economic growth is forecast to have accelerated to 7.8 percent in the third quarter from 7.5 percent in the second quarter, the Reuters poll showed.
Beijing has a growth target of 7.5 percent for 2013, which would be the weakest rate in more than 20 years, and has repeatedly said it would accept slower growth as it tries to restructure the economy to be driven by consumer demand, rather than investment, credit and exports.