China's economy is accelerating again and inflation will tick up by the second half of the year after bottoming out in February, according to David Carbon, Managing Director of Economics and Currencies at DBS Bank.
"We look at the numbers and China gave us a touch and go three, four months ago, so it's no longer a question of hard or soft landing," Carbon told CNBC on Monday. "China has already taken off again, as has most of Asia."
Gross domestic product (GDP) figures to be released Friday may indicate that the economy is expanding faster than the official target of 7.5 percent for 2012, Carbon added. "We look at the broad body of data including GDP, which will be out at the end of this week. China is already re-accelerating again."
The latest data on inflation and bank lending also reflect a strengthening Chinese economy. Inflationin China came in at a higher than expected 3.6 percent in March, according to government data Monday, after hitting 3.3 percent in February. China's big four state banks extended almost 300 billion yuan ($47.50 billion) in new local-currency loans in March, the official Securities Times reported on Saturday, citing unidentified sources.
Chinese authorities tightened credit last year in an effort to rein in inflation, which hit a three-year high of 6.5 percent in July, and rebalance an economy that's overly dependent on investment. In the fourth quarter of 2011, China's economy expanded 8.9 percent from a year earlier, the slowest growth since the second quarter of 2009, signaling that the government's measures might be working.
Still, analysts are increasingly bullish on China’s growth outlook. Song Seng Wun, Regional Economist at CIMB Research, said China could expand as much as 9 percent this year, much higher than the official target of 7.5 percent. Inflation could remain under the official target of 4 percent, he added.
"Yes, we have risks on the external front, we have seen those numbers come through," Song said. "Domestically, we have seen the lag effect of monetary tightening reducing demand - this whole targeted lending that we are looking at. Taken together, it will still be within 8-9 percent. We are looking at about 8.7 percent for the full year. For the first quarter, we are looking at 8.3 percent."
Food inflation should remain "relatively stable" at 8 to 9 percent, he said. In fact, inflation has already hit a bottom, economists say.
"Inflation is always lagging the economy, we've dropped down sharply last month to 3.29 (percent)," Carbon said. "People think it'll be up a couple of ticks this month, we're probably about there for inflation but I think that's true not just in China; I think every place in Asia is the same. We're at about bottom today, six months from now we're going be higher, not lower."