China vows to keep cash flowing after market jitters

Agence France-Presse
China's central bank says it would 'adjust' liquidity to ensure stability after a weeks-long squeeze that has rattled financial markets

CASH FLOW. The Chinese government says it would address liquidity issues, which rattled financial markets. Photo by AFP

SHANGHAI, China – China’s central bank said Friday, June 28, it would “adjust” liquidity to ensure stability after a weeks-long squeeze that has rattled financial markets.

The assurance from Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People’s Bank of China (PBoC), helped Chinese share prices perk up after a recent sell-off that rippled across Asia and worldwide.

Anxiety about tightening credit has been spreading into the broader economy with some Chinese companies reportedly running short of cash to settle suppliers’ bills.

But addressing a financial forum in Shanghai, Zhou said: “The PBoC will use all sorts of instruments and measures to adjust the overall liquidity level, so as to ensure the overall stability of the market.”

For roughly three weeks, funds have been in short supply on China’s interbank market, and the interest rates banks charge to lend to each other have surged to record highs.

The PBoC was said to be worried about a speculative boom in credit fuelled by low rates, but on Tuesday confirmed it had already offered liquidity “support” to banks and pledged to provide more if needed.

That statement marked an apparent change of course after the central bank earlier ruled out providing fresh funds and ordered banks to put their financial houses in order.

The comments Tuesday came after Chinese stocks had closed at lows unseen since the global financial crisis in 2009.

Friday’s new assurances helped the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index overcome opening losses to rise 0.78 percent by midday.

But analysts said the PBoC would have to take more radical action for the market to rise more.

“Zhou’s speech is in line with the central bank’s earlier statement and the expectations of the market, so the impact is limited,” Haitong Securities analyst Zhang Qi told AFP.

Zhou remained confident about China’s growth, though he acknowledged the economy had slowed.

“The Chinese economy, basically speaking, has kept stable growth,” the central bank chief said.

“The growth rate has slowed down a little bit, but the growth rate is still in a reasonable range,” he said, but gave no specific figure.

China has set its economic growth target at 7.5% for 2013.

China’s economy, a crucial driver of global growth, expanded 7.8% in 2012 — its slowest pace in 13 years — and recorded a surprisingly weak 7.7% expansion in this year’s first quarter, well below forecasts.

Zhou said China would maintain its current monetary policy, although he hinted at possible fine-tuning.

“The PBoC will continue to maintain a prudent monetary policy and fine-tune when and as appropriate,” he said.

Some analysts forecast China could loosen monetary policy by lowering the level of funds that banks must hold in reserve, or even cutting interest rates if economic growth slows sharply.

China is due to announce the figure for second-quarter gross domestic product on July 15.

Despite the fears of a slowdown, Zhou pledged that China would push forward with economic reforms, including freeing up capital flows in and out of the country.

“China is poised to further open up its capital account,” he said, adding the timetable would be flexible.

China’s yuan currency is already convertible on the current account — consisting mainly of trade flows — but officials have repeatedly vowed to make the unit more flexible. –

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