Every two weeks, on average. That’s how often China is introducing some form of tightening at the moment. The People’s Bank has just increased the reserve ratio again, by 50 basis points, or a half of one percentage point. This increases the amount of cash banks have to keep with the central bank, thus reducing the amount available to lend. Our calculations suggest rural and small-medium sized banks will have to keep 15.5 per cent of their deposits with the central bank, while larger banks will need to keep 19 per cent. In October of last year, PBoC introduced a further division between banks, increasing the reserve requirements of the six largest banks temporarily, keeping the ratio of other large financial institutions on hold. If that division has now expired, the ratio for the six largest banks is now also 19 per cent. The move will be effective January 20.
Mopping up liquidity in this way is one tool to combat inflation. Another is to let one’s currency appreciate. Signals have been sent today from a senior central bank official that China will allow further flexibility in the yuan. “Flexibility” is a one-way bet in the markets at the moment, and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange today set the central parity rate of the yuan at 6.5896 against the dollar, a new record.
Yes. As Angela Knight, chief executive of the British Bankers’ Association says:
“A bank is like any other business – if its fixed operating costs go up then so does the price of its product. All the changes are good from a stability perspective but add billions to the fixed operating cost of a bank. The consequence is that inevitably the cost of credit – the price the borrower pays for money – will rise. The cheap money era is over.”
But I am sure Ms Knight, as a skilled lobbyist, knows that being strictly correct can happily coexist with being seriously misleading. The impression she gives is that tighter capital and liquidity standards will hit households hard through dearer credit and it is all the fault of pesky regulators. There are two big problems with this: first, the costs of tighter capital standards are only important relative to the benefits; second, the scale of the costs is more important than their existence.
Costs and benefits
Perhaps to offset rumours of further easing, the Fed has announced further trial runs of a key tightening tool.
The New York Fed will test one of its main liquidity-draining tools by conducting a “series of small-scale, real-value reverse repurchase transactions” with primary dealers et al. This repeats and expands upon a similar set of tests announced in October and run in December.
The Federal Reserve today moved one – itty bitty – step closer to getting reverse repos ready to drain the system of excess reserves. Not that they’re in much of a hurry – monetary tightening still seems to be a long way off in the distance, but nice to be prepared.
Vietnam’s central bank has asked the country’s largest bank by assets to slow loan growth in general, but to increase rural lending. The Chinese recently made the same requests of several Chinese banks (1, 2).
The State Bank of Vietnam has asked unlisted Agribank to limit loans this year to 20 per cent, after their loan book grew 24.4 per cent last year. Agribank should also increase its proportion of rural loans to at least 75 per cent in 2010, from 68.3 per cent last year, governor Nguyen Van Giau was quoted as telling the lender at its annual meeting last Friday.
China’s central bank has raised the yield on one-year government debt to 1.9264 per cent, significantly above forecasts, which were in the 1.84 – 1.89 per cent range. The People’s Bank of China auctioned 24 billion yuan ($3.5 bn) of one-year bills at 1.9264 per cent, up 8 basis points from last week’s level of 1.8434 per cent.
The rapid yield increase shows quicker-than-expected tightening from the Chinese central bank. Increasing the yield makes debt more attractive to investors, taking more money out of the system and into the central bank. “The central bank wants to lock up funds for a longer period because of concerns of the risk in inflation in the longer term,” a trader at a major Chinese bank in Shanghai told Reuters.