【英语中国】中国央行调整政策的时机到了吗? Has the Time Come for a PBOC Policy Shift?

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2014-5-10 09:23

小艾摘要: It's been almost two years since China's central bank used one of its big policy tools to adjust the country's monetary policy. But with the release of Friday's inflation data -- which shows a mild ri ...
Has the Time Come for a PBOC Policy Shift?
It's been almost two years since China's central bank used one of its big policy tools to adjust the country's monetary policy. But with the release of Friday's inflation data -- which shows a mild rise in consumer prices, along with declining producer prices -- some are suggesting it's time to open up the tool box once again.

Across China, most major banks have to place 20% of their deposits with the central bank. That requirement both serves as a liquidity cushion and helps cap their lending. A cut in the reserve requirement would make more of those deposits available for lending and perhaps in turn provide a welcome tonic for the economy.

Part of the reason why the central bank doesn't want to adjust monetary policy is that the People's Bank of China doesn't want to signal to the market that it's loosening its monetary stance. For the time being it is holding to its guideline of maintaining a 'prudent' monetary policy, wary of existing credit problems and worried it might set off a new credit binge.

But a number of economists say there's a real need for the central bank to cut the reserve requirement ratio. On Friday, ANZ Bank wrote in a report: 'It is time for the PBOC to cut the reserve requirement ratio,' adding that the risk of deflation is rising and real economic activities remain 'lukewarm.'

Likewise, Nomura economist Zhang Zhiwei said that policy easing is becoming more likely due to declining inflation and rising risks in the property sector, adding the bank expects a 50-basis point cut in the second quarter.

Feng Jianlin, an economist with the Beijing Fost Economic Consulting Co., says that China risks deflation if it doesn't cut the reserve requirement ratio. 'It's already a bit late,' he said. 'I see no reason to wait.' China's producer prices have fallen for 26 straight months.

China's economic growth is slowing -- down to 7.4% in the first quarter year on year after a 7.7% rise in the fourth quarter of last year. Some economists suggest that the government might miss its target of about 7.5% growth for all of this year.

Though low inflation is usually good news, deflation isn't. The fear is that weak demand will depress prices that factories get for key materials, such as steel, coal and cement. That cuts into factory profits and makes it harder for them to repay debt, in turn posing a threat to the nation's financial system.

The consumer price index, a key gauge of inflation, climbed 1.8% year on year in April -- its mildest rise in 18 months -- and down from a 2.4% rise in March. Producer prices, which measure inflation at the factory level, were down 2% from a year ago, and show no sign of turning positive anytime soon.

But the PBOC said price levels as well as economic growth are largely stable.

'Currently, the external and internal conditions are relatively steady. The domestic economy is operating within a reasonable range, the monetary environment is relatively stable and the industrial production momentum is relevantly sufficient,' the PBOC said in its first quarter policy report released earlier this week.

Though China has already announced a cut in the reserve ratio for certain 'qualified' rural banks, the move isn't likely to have a big impact on the banking system.

And in the meantime, not all economists agree that it is a good time to cut the reserve requirement ratio. Likewise, they doubt the central bank has any such plans.

An across-the-board cut in the reserve requirement should only be triggered if economic indicators deteriorate, said CICC economist Peng Wensheng in a note on Thursday. He added the central bank's commitment to stabilizing the total supply of credit and improving the credit structure suggests that policymakers are cautious about loosening their monetary policies.

More likely near-term policy adjustments may focus on the exchange rate as well as maintaining stable liquidity in the interbank market, according to JP Morgan economist Zhu Haibin. If the PBOC does change the reserve requirement--something he doubts will soon occur--it would likely be done to offset reduced inflows of foreign exchange, as opposed to try and ameliorate deflation.

Though economists may disagree about the need for a reserve cut, there's one thing they do agree on: The importance of improved communication with the central bank.

The market is not clear about what the central bank wants to do, said Liu Xiao, a researcher with Beijing Anbound Information, a Chinese think tank, and that can be damaging.

'Poorly-guided expectations like that benefit nobody, especially at a time when economic growth is softening,' Mr. Liu said.

Bloomberg News
中国央行上一次动用该行的重要政策工具来调整国内货币政策已是近两年之前的事情了。然而,周五公布的通货膨胀数据显示,中国消费价格水平仅温和上涨,生产者价格则持续下滑。有鉴于此,一些经济学家认为,现在是中国央行再度动用政策工具的时候了。

目前,中国主要存款类金融机构实行20%的法定存款准备金率,这不仅能为金融机构提供流动性缓冲,同时也限制了它们的放贷规模。若存款准备金率下调,将释放更多可用于放贷的资金,进而可能对经济起到有利的提振作用。

中国央行不愿调整货币政策的部分原因在于,该行不希望向市场发出其将放松货币政策立场的信号。当前,出于对现有信贷问题的警惕以及对可能引发新一轮放贷热潮的担心,中国央行仍然坚持其维持稳健货币政策的方针。

但一些经济学家指出,中国央行确实需要下调存款准备金率。澳新银行(ANZ Bank)周五在一份报告中写道:现在是中国央行下调存款准备金率的时候了。澳新银行还称,中国的通货紧缩风险正在上升,实际经济活动依然不温不火。

野村(Nomura)经济学家张智威也表示,由于中国通胀率下降且房地产市场风险上升,央行放松政策的可能性正在变大。野村预计,中国央行将在第二季度把存款准备金率下调50个基点。

北京福盛德经济咨询有限公司( Beijing Fost Economic Consulting Co.)经济学家冯建林说,如果央行不下调存款准备金率,中国将面临通货紧缩风险。他表示,现在已经有点晚了,他认为没有理由再等了。中国生产者价格指数(PPI)已经连续26个月下滑。

中国的经济增速正在放慢,第一季度同比增速由去年第四季度的7.7%回落至7.4%。一些经济学家认为,中国政府可能无法实现今年全年7.5%左右的经济增长目标。

尽管低通胀通常是好消息,但通货紧缩却不是。令人担心的是需求疲软将压低主要原材料钢材、煤炭和水泥的价格。这将侵蚀相关企业的利润,使得这些企业更加难以偿还债务,进而对中国的金融系统构成威胁。

中国4月份消费者价格指数(CPI)同比上升了1.8%,创18个月来新低,较3月份2.4%的同比升幅有所缩小。4月份PPI同比下降2%,并且没有很快会掉头向上的迹象。

不过中国央行称,物价水平以及经济增长基本稳定。

中国央行在本周早些时候公布的第一季度政策报告中指出,当前内外部环境相对平稳,国内经济运行在合理区间,货币环境相对稳定,工业生产能力较为充足。

虽然中国已经宣布下调部分符合要求的农村银行的存款准备金率,但此举不太可能对银行系统产生大的影响。

同时,并非所有经济学家都认为现在是下调存款准备金率的良机。而且他们也怀疑央行可能并无此类计划。

中国国际金融有限公司(CICC)经济学家彭文生在周四的一份研究报告中表示,只有经济指标出现恶化,才会促使央行全面下调存款准备金率。他补充说,央行承诺稳定总体信贷供应以及改善信贷结构,这意味着决策者们对放松货币政策保持谨慎。

摩根大通(JP Morgan)经济学家诸海滨称,短期政策调整更有可能侧重于汇率政策和维持银行间市场流动性稳定。他表示,如果央行确实调整存款准备金率,其目的也可能是为了抵消外汇流入减少的影响,而不是为了试图抑制通货紧缩。诸海滨认为短期内不太可能调整存款准备金率。

经济学家们在是否需要降低存款准备金率的问题上或许意见分歧,但是他们在一件事情上的看法是一致的,那就是改善与央行之间的信息交流很重要。

中国智库北京安邦咨询公司(Beijing Anbound Information)的研究员刘肖说,市场并不清楚央行想要做什么,这种情况可能产生负面影响。

刘肖称,像这样没有获得良好指引的预期不会让任何人受益,特别是在经济增长放缓的时候。

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