An aerial photo of red lanterns at a factory in Wuyi, Zhejiang province, ahead of the Lunar New Year. Photo: Supplied

China’s factory prices grew at their fastest rate in nearly four years in April, data showed Tuesday, in a sign of the strength of the country’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Having largely contained the coronavirus crisis early last year, the world’s second-biggest economy has enjoyed months of improvement and was the only major economy to expand in 2020.

China’s producer price index (PPI), which measures the cost of goods at the factory gate, expanded a forecast-beating 6.8% on-year last month, the National Bureau of Statistics said.

This is the highest recorded since October 2017, and a leap from the 4.4% registered the previous month.

Analysts had predicted strong growth based on the low corresponding figures for last year, when much of the country remained closed to try to stem Covid-19 outbreaks.

“In April, domestic industrial production recovered steadily, the prices of international commodities such as iron ore … rose, and prices in the production sector continued to rise,” said Senior NBS statistician Dong Lijuan.

China’s economy has bounced back since authorities brought the coronavirus crisis largely under control through strict lockdowns and border restrictions and Beijing set a 2021 growth target of above 6% for the year with a mass vaccination campaign underway.

Official data on Tuesday also showed China’s consumer price index (CPI) rose 0.9% on-year in April – slightly lower than expected.

Dong said the increase came as “domestic consumption continued to recover and prices were generally stable.”

As domestic tourism continued to increase, the prices of air tickets and hotels increased, she said.

China’s CPI, a key gauge of retail inflation, had in recent years been driven up by pork prices after an African swine fever outbreak ravaged stocks.

This has since stabilized with officials working to boost supplies of the country’s meat staple.