People’s Bank of China

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