Economists are divided on whether the central bank will increase
interest rates in the first quarter to fight snowstorm-fueled
Economists widely expect higher inflation in January and
February amid the worst snowstorms in five decades and the seasonal
demand during the Spring Festival which started on February
Though China is set to announce its January consumer price index
today, a higher figure for the inflation gauge is already expected.
Deutsche Bank's Ma Jun expects a January CPI of 7.3 percent and a
February figure of 7.8 percent, and inflation may even exceed 8.0
percent in March. Citibank's Shen Minggao expects January inflation
of 7.2 percent.
The consensus on higher inflation won't necessarily trigger an
immediate interest-rate increase, some researchers said.
Lu Zhengwei, an Industrial Bank analyst, said the possibility of
interest-rate rises has receded because of the snowstorms' impact
on the economy. "An interest-rate increase is a weapon to fight
inflation which will cast an impact on all industries," Lu said.
"Certain industries need support from loans after the snowstorm,
eliminating chances of such a rate rise."
It will also take time to see the effect of the six
interest-rate increases last year, he said.
Li Maoyu, a Changjiang Securities Co analyst, also noted an
interest-rate rise was unlikely this month, despite higher
inflation. Monetary policies like raising the reserve-requirement
ratio for banks and some temporary pricing intervention moves were
more likely, Li said.
However, others still expect more rate rises, including
Citibank's Shen and Standard Chartered's Stephen Green, who expect
four more hikes this year.
China's strong exports growth in January may delay any easing of
a tight monetary policy, Shen said. China's January exports grew a
faster-then-expected 26.7 percent, indicated that China's trade
pattern has not been affected sizably by slowing external demand
and the quickened pace of yuan appreciation in recent months.
"Liquidity management and its potential impact on inflation could
remain top of the government's agenda," Shen said.
"We still hold the view that there could be one more rate rise
in the first quarter," said Shen. "The main reason is due to the
widening gap between the deposit rate and inflation."
Deutsche Bank's Ma noted that raising interest rates twice
within the next three months for three CPI new highs in the first
quarter still appears a quite reasonable policy compromise for the
(Shanghai Daily February 19, 2008)