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Chinese Monetary Policy to Prioritize Resumption of Work, Supporting Economy

China’s central bank will make the resumption of work and supporting economic growth the priority for monetary policy as the country is hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Liu Guoqiang, a vice governor of the People’s Bank of China, said Friday that regulators will guide the country’s commercial banks to surrender some profit to support the economy while the central bank maintains ample liquidity in the financial system.

But he cautioned against cutting benchmark deposit rates as lowering loan rates has hurt banks’ profitability. Mr. Liu said deposit rate cuts were constrained by the risk that it would lead to soaring consumer inflation and possibly devaluing the Chinese yuan. He added a cut would need to be comprehensively evaluated.

Beijing has pledged that the state-dominated banking system will step up lending to virus-hit small businesses. In the first quarter, commercial banks have issued 7 trillion yuan ($988 billion) in new loans, up by CNY1.18 trillion from the same period a year earlier, according to data released at the briefing Friday.

Mr. Liu said monetary policy will focus on getting the whole supply chain back to work since China has made progress in containing the spread of the virus. He added that China has enough policy room to offset the pandemic’s shock to the economy.

After the coronavirus outbreak in late January, the PBOC injected hundreds of billions of dollars in liquidity into the financial system. It ordered state banks to extend cheap loans and give businesses longer grace periods to repay loans.

Corporate and household borrowers have thus far applied for delayed repayment of loans totaling CNY700 billion, according to data released on Friday.

Mr. Liu said Chinese economy had improved in March, compared with February when the coronavirus and government control measures ground the economy to a halt. Economists widely predict that China will suffer its first quarterly economic contraction, from a year earlier, in the first three months of 2020.

Zhou Liang, a vice chairman of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, said the regulator will guide banks to cut their lending rates to small businesses in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, by another 1 percentage point this year. The banking regulator will also guide banks to provide CNY800 billion in lending to small companies which can use their account receivables to apply for loans.

Slowing economic growth and increased lending to small businesses considered risky borrowers will affect Chinese lenders’ asset quality, analysts and bankers say.

Officials said authorities will let banks further replenish their capital bases this year through various channels.

Xu Hongcai, a vice finance minister, said at the same briefing that Beijing will let local governments issue more special-purpose bonds to fund projects for 5G communication networks, vocation education, public health and old community renovations. He also added that the central government would ban the funds raised from the special-purpose bonds from being used to buy lands and property projects.

China’s State Council said it would issue new quotas for local government bonds, step up the fiscal deficit and issue special government bonds to counter shocks due to the coronavirus.
Source: Dow Jones

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