Chinese central bank eyes liquidity tools

BEIJING • China's central bank has given more signals about its evolving monetary policy stance, flagging continued use of liquidity tools rather than further cuts to interest rates or the percentage of deposits banks must hold as reserves.

China should improve the effectiveness of its monetary policy by using more "innovative monetary tools" such as its medium-term lending facility (MLF) and standing lending facility (SLF), and policymakers should give more forward-looking guidance to manage market expectations, according to a commentary published yesterday by a newspaper under the People's Bank of China (PBOC). 

The PBOC introduced the MLF in late 2014 to inject cash into areas such as agriculture and small and medium-sized companies, while the SLF is considered the ceiling of an interest-rate corridor being formed by the central bank.

The PBOC has been reluctant to add to an easing cycle that started late in 2014 amid concern that companies have fallen into a "liquidity trap" as the effectiveness of cash injections on investment and growth wanes.

In a report last Friday, the PBOC said frequent cuts in interest rates and banks' required reserve ratio would add too much liquidity to the financial system and could lead to expectations that the yuan will depreciate. It said policy should remain "prudent".

The PBOC's recent comments rule out an RRR or rate cut in the near term, Mr Harrison Hu, chief Greater China economist at Royal Bank of Scotland Group, wrote in a note yesterday.

"Monetary easing may be carried out in a more low-key way, in order to limit its side effects." Mr Hu said rates on pledged supplementary lending and MLF are more likely to be lowered, along with expanded volumes of liquidity.

He expects that an easing bias will resume later in the year as earlier property and infrastructure stimulus runs its course.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 09, 2016, with the headline 'Chinese central bank eyes liquidity tools'. Print Edition | Subscribe