01/11/2012 08:47 EST | Updated 03/12/2012 05:12 EDT

China's December inflation eases to 4.1 per cent but food prices up sharply

BEIJING, China - China's December inflation rate eased slightly to 4.1 per cent, giving Beijing more room to stimulate its slowing economy.

The government said Thursday consumer prices overall rose 4.1 per cent in December, down from November's 4.2 per cent. Inflation in food prices accelerated to 9.1 per cent from November's 8.8 per cent.

Lower inflation could clear the way for Beijing to take more steps to stimulate slowing economic growth if necessary. But higher food costs are politically sensitive and could force Chinese leaders to be more cautious.