China’s central bank resumed its easing cycle on Monday, injecting an estimated $100 billion worth of long-term cash into the economy to cushion the pain from job layoffs and bankruptcies in industries plagued by overcapacity.
The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) said on its website it was cutting the reserve requirement ratio, or the amount of cash that banks must hold as reserves, by 50 basis points, taking the ratio to 17 percent for the biggest lenders.
The cut came just days after China used its role as host of the Group of 20 (G20) to reassure trading partners that it did not intend to further devalue the yuan, after a surprise 2 percent devaluation last August threw markets into a spin.
The PBOC’s announcement also comes shortly before the annual meeting of China’s parliament, which must try to engineer a huge economic shift toward services and consumption and away from basic manufacturing, while also keeping growth stable.
The move was a surprise to some observers, given that the PBOC had previously said it would rely more on daily injections of short-term money to keep cash flowing, rather than the long-term addition of funds from an RRR cut.
The cut is effective from March 1, and it comes after signs of increasing tightness in the money market last week, despite repeated daily injections through open market operations, including a 230 billion yuan injection on Monday morning.
“This reflects the central bank is keen to ease liquidity in the China banking sector,” wrote Iris Pang, an economist at Natixis in Hong Kong. She said the move would release 689 billion yuan ($105 billion) for fresh lending; economists at ANZ bank put that figure at about 650 billion yuan. Read more