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PBOC faces balancing act with rate, inflation

By WANG XIAOTIAN  (China Daily)

08:03, May 14, 2013

Central bank vows to keep eye on other nations' easing policies

Amid a wave of interest rate cuts by major economies around the world, Chinese monetary authorities will face a policy dilemma in the coming weeks.

Financial specialists said authorities will have to decide between cutting the interest rate to curb capital inflows from overseas, and tightening the money supply — usually by keeping a relatively high interest rate — to ward off inflation.

Zong Liang, deputy head of the International Finance Research Institute under the Bank of China, said: "While recent figures show that the domestic liquidity condition is too loose, the global situation is making it difficult for the central bank to initiate an interest rate hike."

The People's Bank of China, the central bank, said on Friday that growth of M2, the broad measure of money supply that covers cash in circulation and all deposits, increased by the end of April by 16.1 percent, 0.4 percentage point higher from March.

That was higher than the yearly growth limit of 13 percent for the indicator, which the PBOC had set earlier.

In addition, total social financing, an index that covers all loans, bond issuance and stock sales, stood at 1.75 trillion yuan ($284.6 billion) in April, higher than the market forecast of 1.5 trillion yuan.

"As the reserve requirement ratio for banks is already high, it seems that the PBOC can only turn to open market operations to tighten the money supply," Zong said.

On Thursday, the Bank of Korea lowered its benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points to 2.5 percent, the first cut in seven months. The move came after central banks in Europe, India and Australia all took actions to lower their borrowing costs.

Having cut Europe's interest rate to a record low, policymakers are ready to make further cuts when needed, said Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, early last week.

Monetary easing in those economies all followed the United States policymakers' overwhelming endorsement of the Federal Reserve's plan to keep buying bonds to spur growth and employment, and the Bank of Japan's effort to double its monetary base over the next two years.

The PBOC is vigilant on the policy-based monetary easing in other countries and implications for China, according to its quarterly report on monetary policy released on Thursday.

The central bank report described the issue as one of a potential "major risk" for the Chinese economy, and called for "strengthening effective monitoring of cross-border capital flows".

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