China is likely to keep benchmark lending rates unchanged at its monthly fixing on Monday, a Reuters survey found, after the central bank surprised investors by forgoing a cut to medium-term lending rates this week.
The poll nevertheless found expectations for cuts growing after Liu He, China’s vice-premier, on Wednesday said Beijing would roll out more support measures for the Chinese economy.
Among 36 financial institutions surveyed in a snap Reuters poll, just over half said they expected China’s one-year loan prime rate (LPR) and the five-year rate to remain unchanged at the March fixing.
Five respondents said they anticipated a 5 basis point reduction in the five-year rate and no change in the one-year rate.
“I think they’ll cut the five-year, since the one-year follows the MLF,” said a trader at a Chinese bank. “They want to stabilise the property market so it’s more important to cut the five-year.”
The central bank surprised markets on Tuesday by not cutting its one-year medium-term lending facility (MLF) rate, despite growing risks to the economic outlook from coronavirus, the Ukraine war and a weak property market.
Reflecting market uncertainty, other respondents predicted a wide range of different cuts.
Four respondents expected a 5 basis point cut in the one-year rate, but no change in the five-year, and six respondents said they expected at least one of the rates to be cut by 10 basis points.
Regardless of whether Monday’s fixing brings a cut, investors see Liu’s comments as having boosted the likelihood of other easing measures, particularly as China struggles with a worsening Covid-19 outbreak.
“Given strict social distancing measures, it is likely that more cities could find themselves being put under ‘semi-lockdown’,” analysts at ING said in a note.
The one-year LPR is 3.7% following cuts of 5 and 10 basis points in December and January, respectively, while the five-year LPR is 4.6% after a 5-basis-point cut in January.
- Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell