China cbank set to leave key rate unchanged on Friday amid uncertainty around Fed easing

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China’s central bank is expected to leave a key policy rate unchanged when it rolls over maturing medium-term loans on Friday, a Reuters survey showed, amid uncertainty over the timing of expected Federal Reserve interest rate cuts.

Market watchers widely believe Beijing will continue to prioritise the stability of the yuan, despite widespread views that the struggling economy needs more stimulus.  

Cutting rates before a move by the Fed or other major central banks would widen yield differentials, potentially putting more pressure on the currency, which has depreciated 1.3% against the dollar so far this year despite persistent central bank efforts to shore it up.

In a Reuters poll of 36 market watchers conducted this week, 32, or 89%, of respondents expected the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) to keep the interest rate on one-year medium-term lending facility (MLF) loans CNMLF1YRRP=PBOC unchanged at 2.50% when rolling over 481 billion yuan ($66.86 billion) worth of such loans.

The remaining four participants projected a marginal interest rate reduction.

“We maintain our view that the PBOC will not front-run the Federal Reserve for a policy rate cut,” said Samuel Tse, economist at DBS.

“After all, the authority aims at stabilising the exchange rate to forestall further capital outflows. Stabilising economic data also leaves room for a delayed rate cut decision.”

The Fed is widely expected to cut interest rates this year if inflation cools, and markets now see a 65% chance of a rate cut in June, though that has edged down from 71% earlier in the week, according to LSEG’s rate probability app. The likelihood of a July rate cut sits around 83%.

A Fed rate cut or series of cuts would offer leeway for its Chinese counterpart to lower borrowing costs to prop up economic growth, traders and analysts said.

“China’s policy rate adjustment may have to wait until when the timing of the U.S. interest rate cut becomes clear,” said a bond fund manager in Beijing, expecting the PBOC to fully roll over the maturing MLF loans and even offer some fresh funds into the financial system on Friday.

However, PBOC Governor Pan Gongsheng said last week the bank would keep the yuan basically stable and sent a dovish message to the market by saying China had “rich monetary policy tools at its disposal.”

“We expect more monetary policy easing in China to support growth,” economists at Barclays said in a note.

“We expect a 10-basis-point cut in the policy rate in both Q2 and Q3, and look for a 25-50 bps cut in banks’ reserve requirement ratio (RRR) in Q2 and another 25-50 bps RRR cut in Q3.”

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