Are US equities about to get a boost from a surprising source?
The Bank of Israel this month joined the Swiss National Bank and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority in investing in US stocks, initially setting aside 2 per cent of its $77bn reserves stockpile into share indices.
However, even though the amount could eventually climb to 10 per cent of its reserves, this hardly the sort of news that will move a market as big as US equities, for which $7.7 billion is small change.
But if other central banks, which collectively manage $10.7trn-worth of reserves, follow suit, then the impact could be significant. 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-March. Read 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
China’s biggest banks will need to place 19 per cent of their deposits with their central bank from December 20. The People’s Bank of China has raised the depository reserve requirement by 50bp for the third time in five weeks, and the sixth time this year. Presumably – though this is not detailed in the release – the reserve requirement for China’s small- and medium- sized banks will be 17 per cent.
No reason was given for the move, which will mop up excess cash in the system and dampen inflation. An alternative tightening move – to raise interest rates – has not been taken since October 20. The last two reserve-requirement raises were effective November 16 and 29.
Monetary tightening in China just sped up. The Chinese central bank has just announced another 50bp increase in the deposit reserve ratio – which will happen at the end of November. The previous hike on November 10 was also 50bp and was expected to remove about $45bn liquidity from the Chinese economy.
Presumably – though this is not detailed in the release – the new reserve ratios will be: 18.5 per cent for six largest banks; 18 per cent for other large banks; and 16 per cent for small- and medium- sized banks. China is also raising rates – a 25bp hike took place a month ago and there have been further rumours since then and today in the markets (though perhaps the reserve increase will substitute). Read more
More on that China rumour (which is no longer a rumour). The People’s Bank does plan to raise the deposit reserve requirement by 50bp, broadening and making permanent a temporary measure introduced almost exactly a month ago. The move, which takes effect on November 16, is expected to reduce liquidity by $45bn.
Back then, the measure affected six large commercial banks for two months. Four of those six banks will now see their deposit reserve requirement ratio (ratio) rise to 18 per cent. Other large deposit-taking institutions will see their ratio rise to 17.5 per cent, while small- and medium- sized banks will have a ratio of 15.5 per cent. Read more
Three rumours doing the rounds this morning. First, that China might be about to raise reserve requirements again. The People’s Bank of China will raise reserve requirements for “several” banks, including key lenders, by 50bp on Monday, Dow Jones newswires reports via AFP. Chinese prices rose significantly between August and September, with year-on-year consumer price inflation standing at 3.6 per cent in September. China has recently employed other tightening measures, such as raising a key interest rate by 25bp last week.
Second rumour: that the Bank of Japan’s contributions to the Treasury will be waived or reduced if the central bank incurs losses in its asset purchase programme. Nikkei English News reports, via Bloomberg, that finance minister Yoshihiko Noda may soon make an official announcement. Read more
China’s central bank has signalled a shift toward rate normalisation, following its recent rate rise. The People’s Bank said it will “gradually guide monetary conditions back to the normal state while continuing the comparative loose monetary,” according to Xinhua. The remarks were made in the Bank’s third quarter Monetary Policy Implementation report released before the Fed meeting and not yet available in English.
China’s change in tone may usher in a new period of tightening, as inflationary pressures mount. The Fed’s decision to pump $600bn into the US economy will push down the dollar. Since the renminbi closely tracks the dollar, the Chinese currency will not be allowed to strengthen proportionately, and the extra money in the system will increase the supply of renminbi, adding to inflationary pressure. Read more
China has temporarily increased the reserve ratio required from six large commercial banks banks. For two months, the banks will need to keep 17.5 per cent of depositors’ balances on hand, instead of 17 per cent. With banks hoarding more cash, money supply and credit availability will fall in China. In two months’ time, the reserve ratio is expected to return to 17 per cent.
The surprise move, reported by Reuters from four unnamed sources, may be a response to rising capital flows, rather than a prelude to monetary tightening. It could also be intended as a warning to banks rumoured to have stepped up their lending in September, above government targets. Read more
China will allow foreign central banks and overseas lenders to start investing in the country’s domestic interbank bond market for the first time, in a move aimed at encouraging internationalisation of the Chinese currency.
The People’s Bank of China, the central bank, said on Tuesday it had launched a pilot project to allow greater foreign access to its largely closed domestic interbank bond market in order to “encourage cross-border Rmb [renminbi] trade settlement” and “broaden investment channels for Rmb to flow back [to China]”. Read more
“If [the central bank] had raised the value of renminbi in March and raised interest rates in April, financial markets would have been more stable.” This from Japanese media Asahi Shimbun, interviewing Zhou Qiren, a member of the Monetary Policy Committee, an advisory body to the People’s Bank of China.
The short interview transcript is well worth a read. Mr Qiren also points out one obvious consequence of a more flexible, or floating, currency: its value may fall as well as rise. If exports were to start suffering, the yuan would weaken to help the economy, Mr Qiren said. So far, the value of the yuan has strengthened almost imperceptibly: the blue lines on the chart are the tolerance levels for the original value of the yuan on 19 June. (h/t Market Watch)
Is the People’s Bank of China planning to further liberate the yuan? The central bank has cut the commitment to “keep the yuan’s exchange rate basically stable” from its latest currency communique. The rest of the message repeated the existing policy, i.e. to improve the currency’s exchange rate mechanism, and adjust its value with reference to a basket of foreign currencies.
Although the currency’s peg was loosened on June 19, the daily midpoint set by Safe has barely strayed out of the tolerance levels of the original peg; the currency need only have been 0.3 per cent weaker to meet the original, pegged criteria. Against the US claims of the yuan’s ‘true value’, the currency’s ‘strengthening’ is barely discernible.
Having strengthened yesterday, the renminbi has opened sharply down against the dollar – indeed by the largest weakening since December 2008.
Market talk suggests Chinese state-owned banks bought dollars to save the central bank from having to intervene. If the currency is seen as a one-way bet, ‘hot money’ will likely flow into China – potentially interrupting monetary policy transmission and causing inflation. Read more