China cuts rate by most since 2020

The People’s Bank of China unexpectedly lowered the one-year medium-term lending facility (MLF) rates by 15 bps to 2.5%

By Ahmed Azzam | @3zzamous | 15 August 2023

  • China's central bank unexpectedly cuts lending rates by 15 bps.

  • CNY 401B injected through MLF loans; net fresh funds added.

  • CNY 204B reverse repurchase; borrowing costs lowered by 10 bps.

  • Spotlight on US economic indicators anticipated 0.4% rise in July retail sales.

China surprise rate cut amidst economic headwinds

In an unanticipated maneuver, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) has deftly trimmed the one-year medium-term lending facility (MLF) rates by 15 basis points to a new level of 2.5%. This unexpected action, enacted on August 15th, marks the second such reduction this year, underscoring the PBoC's commitment to buttress the economy in the face of mounting challenges. The Chinese economic landscape is now notably punctuated by a deepening property crisis and languid consumer expenditure.

This strategic rate adjustment not only extends a helping hand to an economy at crossroads but also paves the way for a potential subsequent cut in the lending loan prime rate (LPR) in the coming week. As the central bank seeks to orchestrate a finely tuned ensemble of fiscal maneuvers, it's apparent that all options remain on the table to harmonize economic recovery.

In a synchronized move, the central bank has embarked on a formidable endeavor by introducing a total of CNY 401 billion in MLF loans into the financial matrix. Notably, CNY 400 billion of these MLF loans are slated to reach their expiration within the current month. Calculated maneuvering has resulted in a net infusion of CNY 1 billion in fresh capital coursing through the veins of the financial sector. Furthermore, the PBoC orchestrated a deft injection of CNY 204 billion through a seven-day reverse repurchase operation, accompanied by a commendable reduction in borrowing costs by an appreciable 10 basis points, pegging it at a thrifty 1.8%.

In a parallel narrative, China has elected to cease the public dissemination of its youth unemployment rate. The rationale behind this shift stems from the belief that the data requires further refinement before resuming its unveiling. This recalibration underscores the nation's pursuit of data accuracy and reliability in a nuanced economic climate.

The currency market bore witness to palpable repercussions, as the yuan gracefully descended to its lowest valuation since the bygone days of November. Concurrently, sovereign bonds experienced a jubilant rally, reveling in the aftermath of the rate cuts. Alas, the stock market exhibited a modicum of fragility, with Chinese equities experiencing a downward slide for the third consecutive day.

Anticipating key US indicators amidst global uncertainty

Turning our gaze westward, all eyes are on the United States as pivotal economic indicators lie in wait. July's retail sales figures are poised to paint a more promising picture, expected to post a commendable 0.4% uptick, thus surpassing the modest 0.2% progress witnessed in June. Meanwhile, the New York Federal Reserve's Empire Manufacturing Index may tell a different tale, potentially registering a decline to -1 in the month of August. However, amidst this narrative of contraction, import prices appear poised for a resurgence, likely rebounding on a month-on-month basis for the month of July.