People’s Bank of China

Claire Jones

This from the FT’s Josh Noble:

The Australian central bank plans to invest about 5 per cent of its foreign reserves in Chinese government bonds, in the latest move to build closer economic ties between the two countries.

The lead set by the Reserve Bank of Australia and a few others is likely to be followed by central banks elsewhere. Read more

Claire Jones

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IMF/ World Bank meetings

Many of the world’s top central bankers will travel to Tokyo this week for the IMF/ World Bank annual meetings. The meetings take place on Friday and Saturday.

Details of the meetings and the full programme of seminars is available here. Highlights include a talk by Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People’s Bank of China, on Sunday at 11:30 a.m Tokyo time (2.30am GMT), and appearances by Fed chair Ben Bernanke and ECB president Mario Draghi at a BoJ/IMF event later in the day. Read more

Claire Jones

The People’s Bank of China has not cut rates twice in a month solely because the domestic economy is showing signs of slowing down.

Officials in Beijing, and elsewhere in Asia, are easing monetary policy in part because they are intent on getting ahead of the curve should things get much worse in the eurozone and global trade collapse in the way in did in the months following Lehman Brothers’ failure.

Two fascinating speeches made in recent days by Federal Reserve and Bank of Japan staff highlight just how grave central bankers believe the threat from Europe actually is. Read more

Claire Jones

Our week ahead email helps you to track the most important events in central banking. To see all of our emails and alerts visit

Bernanke goes back to school

Ben Bernanke, Fed chairman, next week delivers the first two of four lectures to undergraduates at the George Washington University School of Business. Read more

Claire Jones

The People’s Bank of China will welcome the news that China’s foreign exchange reserves dipped for the first time in a decade in the final quarter of 2011.

This from the FT’s Simon Rabinovitch in Beijing:

A more serious problem for China has been the need to cancel out the domestic inflationary effect of the reserve accumulation.

The root cause of the growth in currency reserves has been Beijing’s policy of keeping the renminbi in a managed float against the dollar. The semi-pegged currency obliges the Chinese central bank to buy most of the foreign exchange coming into the country, injecting fresh renminbi into the financial system in return.

To prevent that newly created money from pushing prices higher, the People’s Bank of China must constantly engage in what are known as “sterilisation operations”. It issues bills to banks or forces them to set aside a portion of their deposits as required reserves to mop up the excess liquidity.

Not only are these “sterilisation operations” burdensome for the central bank, they are also costly.  Read more

Ever since Wen Jiabao, China’s premier, promised in October to “preemptively fine-tune policy at a suitable time and by an appropriate degree” markets have been waiting for monetary easing to begin.

In fact it is already under way, in the form of increased lending from China’s state-owned commercial banks and in sharp falls in China’s money market rates. But on Wednesday came the first sign of a lifting of reserve requirements. It has begun with rural banks. More will follow.

 Read more

Claire Jones

The dip in the price of gold in early autumn failed to do much to dampen demand from the central banks. In fact, their buying rocketed. This from the FT’s Jack Farchy:

Central banks made their largest purchases of gold in decades in the third quarter, as a sharp drop in prices in September accelerated the shift to bullion as a means of diversification.

The scale of the buying, at 148.4 tonnes on a net basis, was far bigger than previously disclosed, surprising some traders.


The report by the World Gold Council, industry lobbyists, on which the story is based confirms a few of Money Supply’s earlier suspicions about why central bank demand would to remain strong, or even rise, on the back of the dip in price. Read more

Claire Jones

The IMF and the World Bank will regard the publication of its report on the first Financial Sector Assessment Programme, or FSAP, for China on Tuesday as something of a triumph.

Pre-crisis, China (along with the US) refused to undergo the programme, which serves as a health check on a country’s financial network.  Now, they are compulsory for those financial networks deemed systemically important.

People's Bank of China. Image by Getty.

People's Bank of China. Image by Getty.

That’s to be applauded; the more that is done to warn of risks to financial stability, the better. But the People’s Bank of China’s response to the exercise highlights its limits. Read more

Claire Jones

Standard & Poor’s downgrade looks set to have little immediate impact on central bank reserve managers’ fondness for US Treasuries.

Despite China’s posturing, it – and others– look set to remain big holders of Treasuries for now. Japan – the second largest international holder of US debt after China – has said it thinks “there is no problem regarding the creditworthiness of US Treasuries and US government bonds will continue to be attractive assets.” Russian and Middle Eastern officials have said likewise. Read more

Claire Jones

Nobody is quite sure yet what does and doesn’t count as macroprudential policy. But, given it’s seen as a force for good, central bankers are keen to pin the tag on as much of what they do as possible. Once the hype fades, though, it is unlikely to displace interest rates as their most important tool.

A key, perhaps even the question for policymakers, then, is how monetary policy and macroprudential policy can best interact.

According to research from Standard Chartered’s Natalia Lechmanova, which looks at the lessons that can be learnt from how Asian policymakers have used macroprudential tools such as loan-to-value ratios, the two policy strands are most effective when they are combined. Read more

Claire Jones

Another day, another dollar. Or, in the case of the People’s Bank of China, about 1.7 billion of them.

In the three months to June, China added $153bn to its reserves, which now amount to $3,197bn.

As with growth, China’s premier has acknowledged that the pace of reserves accumulation must slow.

It has fallen from $197bn in the first quarter of the year. But it is hardly grinding to a halt. And if the renminbi continues to appreciate at the rate it has this year – it has climbed just 1.9 per cent against the dollar so far– then it is unlikely to anytime soon.

There are many benefits to having a $3,197bn reserves stockpile. However, for the PBoC, there are drawbacks too. Read more

For the fourth time in less than six months, China has raised rates. The quarter point increase leaves the one-year  deposit rate at 3.25 per cent and the one-year lending rate at 6.31 per cent, each a percentage point higher than October of last year. Inflation rose to 4.9 per cent in the year to February, driven higher by food price inflation.

Other tightening measures are being gradually but regularly applied, notably the reserve requirement, which has been raised seven times since October and now stands at 20 per cent for large banks, following the most recent increase in mid-MarchRead more

Hong Kong’s yuan market is set to receive a boost from China’s central bank. The People’s Bank of China plans to raise the territory’s yuan clearing rate and is considering an increase in deposit rate, too, Reuters reports. Rates in Hong Kong are significantly lower than they are on the mainland, and unnamed sources quoted by the news agency say the planned moves are unlikely to align rates in one step. 

An increase in deposit rates would encourage companies to leave yuan in Hong Kong rather than sending them back to the mainland. Analysts also expect an increase in the supply of yuan bonds as investors hope for higher yields on forthcoming issues. From Reuters: Read more

Large Chinese lenders will need to keep a fifth of their deposits with the central bank from March 25, after the People’s Bank of China announced an increase in reserve requirements. Individual banks that are lending too much might be targeted with further specific measures. Small-medium banks are probably now required to hold 16.5 per cent of loans, though, as ever, this is unclear from the Bank’s statement.

Tightening was expected – even overdue – but comments from the PBoC had suggested it might be a rate rise. This is the third rise in reserve requirements this year and follows a rate rise in February. The last raise in reserve requirements was also half a percentage point, and was announced a month ago, on February 18. Consumer price inflation held at 4.9 per cent in the year to February – the same as January, but above 4.6 per cent in December and also above forecasters’ February expectations of about 4.7 per cent. Read more

Interest rates are back in vogue at the People’s Bank: the concern over capital inflows shouldn’t reduce the case for using them, governor Zhou has said. He also said that raising banks’ reserve requirements, which reduces the amount available to lend, is a liquidity management tool that cannot necessarily replace other monetary tools. China has raised rates three times since October last year and raised the reserve requirement five times. There has been a relatively long gap since the last monetary tweak, on February 18.

These pro-interest rate comments are courtesy of SocGen research, taken from the PBoC press conference at China’s annual plenary session of the National People’s Congress. Read more

The pace is picking up. China is to tighten policy again, raising reserve requirements by 50bp effective February 24. The news follows a rate rise ten days ago. The People’s Bank’s promise of “intensive adjustment” to its monetary policy in Q1 hasn’t disappointed; the last reserve requirement hike, also of 50bp, was announced on January 14. Reserve requirements for big banks are believed to be 19.5 per cent now; they are 16 per cent for smaller banks.

Some small- and medium- sized deposit-taking banks will need to keep more funds with the central bank following a lending binge at the start of the year, according to reports in the official China Securities Journal.

Without citing sources or giving details, the newspaper said the People’s Bank of China had tailor-made reserve ratios for various city commercial banks, reports Reuters. Bloomberg points out that it is unclear whether the ratio has risen or fallen. Given the general move to combat inflation in China, an overall tightening is likely, however. Read more

Domestic inflation seems a much likelier explanation for the recent appreciation of the yuan than American pressure. Many commentators have referred to the Chinese “bowing to pressure” or otherwise implied that the authorities have – without apparent trigger – capitulated to Western pressure. A quick look at the timing suggests otherwise. China is in the middle of a tightening extravaganza, raising interest rates and reserve requirements to tackle inflation. A strengthening yuan can have exactly the same effect, by making imports cheaper. Timing is only circumstantial evidence, of course, but it is something.

A tightening measure was about due in China: it’s been 25 days since the last one, against an average of 17 days since October.

The People’s Bank of China just increased rates by a quarter of a point, which raises the one-year deposit rate to 3 per cent and the one-year lending rate to 6.06 per cent. The last move to stem inflation and mop up excess liquidity was a raise in reserve requirements on January 14. MPC member Li Daokui said at that time a rate rise was likely in the first quarter and indeed spoke of an “intensive adjustment” in this period. The raise is effective tomorrow.

Inflation might have risen to 6 per cent in January, Bloomberg reports from analysts at Daiwa Capital Markets. In December, it rose to 4.6 per cent. The economy grew by 9.8 per cent in the fourth quarter, faster than the pace in the previous three months. See below for a history of China’s tightening: Read more

Is the PBoC changing its toolkit? Comments from an MPC member suggest the Bank might favour rate rises over reserve requirements to combat inflation.

“It is reasonable to see an intensive adjustment of the monetary policy in the first quarter,” said Li Daokui, according to Xinhua news wire. A rate rise is possible this quarter, he said. The one-year deposit and lending rates stand at 2.75 and 5.81 per cent, respectively, following 25bp rises in October and December 2010. Read more