China’s central bank trims 1-year rate, but unexpectedly leaves 5-year rate unchanged

A night view of the Central Business District in Beijing, China, Nov 10, 2021.
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China’s central bank cut its one-year loan prime rate Monday, while leaving its five-year rate unchanged. These decisions are weaker than expectations for more muscular policy intervention following a raft of data that pointed to faltering growth momentum in the world’s second-largest economy.

The People’s Bank of China trimmed its one-year loan prime rate — the peg for most household and corporate loans in China — by 10 basis points from 3.55% to 3.45%, just shy of the 15 basis points that a majority of economists expected in a Reuters poll. This was the second time China has cut this rate in three months.

The PBOC left its five-year loan prime rate — the peg for most mortgages — unchanged at 4.2%, while economists expected a 15 basis point cut due to default risks from festering liquidity woes in the country’s property sector. Country Garden is on the verge of default, while Evergrande filed last week for bankruptcy protection in a Manhattan court.

“The underwhelming LPR announcement strengthens our view that the PBOC is unlikely to embrace the much larger rates cuts that would be required to revive credit demand,” Julian Evans-Pritchard, Capital Economics’ head of China, wrote in a note.

“Hopes for a stimulus-led turnaround in economic activity largely depend on the prospect of greater fiscal support,” he added.

On Monday, the Hang Seng Index sank by as much as nearly 1.8% to touch its lowest levels since late November, and the China Enterprises Index of the largest offshore listings in Hong Kong each sank by as much as 1.9%. The CSI 300 index of mainland-listed blue chips was by as much as 1%.

Monday’s actions follow surprise cuts to its short- and medium-term lending rates last Tuesday after a raft of economic data pointed to weak credit growth and emerging deflation risks, intensifying fears of a rapidly slowing economy. Missed payments on some shadow banking-linked trust products are further spooking investors.

The PBOC said Sunday that China will coordinate financial support to resolve local government debt risks and reduce systemic risks, while also looking to “adjust and optimize” credit policies for the property sector and lower financing costs for the economy.

Last week, the PBOC lowered the rate on 401 billion yuan ($55.25 billion) worth of one-year medium-term lending facility loans to some financial institutions by 15 basis points to 2.50% from 2.65% previously. Overnight, seven-day, and one-month standing lending facility rates were each trimmed by 10 basis points to 2.65%, 2.8% and 3.15%, respectively.