SHANGHAI : China's central bank is expected to renew maturing medium-term loans and keep borrowing cost unchanged on Monday, although a rising number of market participants start to bet on a rate cut, a Reuters survey showed.
Thirty-four out of the 48 traders and analysts, or 70per cent of all participants, polled by Reuters on Friday predicted no change to the interest rate on one-year medium-term lending facility (MLF) when the People's Bank of China (PBOC) is set to roll over 500 billion yuan ($78.65 billion) worth of such loans next Monday.
Among the remaining 14 respondents, 11 forecast a five-basis-point (BP) cut to the MLF rate, while the other three predicted a bigger cut of 10 bp.
Growing concerns over potential defaults by property developers and the recent rapid spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus across the country have added to more uncertainties and prompted market expectations of further monetary stimulus.
"In particular, we see January as a key time frame for the PBOC to trim policy rates further (MLF, LPR, etc.) so that the action can take effect before the Chinese New Year," Citi analysts said in a note.
China lowered the lending benchmark loan prime rate (LPR) and the central bank reduced the amount of cash banks must set aside in December, as the economy slows and the outlook pointed to a tough 2022. Some analysts expect the PBOC may choose to wait before entering the easing mode again.
"We are still observing the effect of recent policy actions, so chances for the PBOC to adjust interest rates again this month may not be high," said Marco Sun, chief financial markets analyst at MUFG Bank.
Ken Cheung, chief Asian FX strategist at Mizuho Bank, also expects the PBOC to opt not to lower the MLF rate this month and instead see policymakers likely waiting till March to gauge the health of the economy.
Policy insiders told Reuters that the PBOC was poised to unveil extra easing steps to support slowing growth, though it would likely favour injecting more cash into the economy.
The MLF rate serves as a guide to the LPR, which is decided on the 20th of each month. On Monday, China is also due to release fourth quarter gross domestic product and key activity indicators.
($1 = 6.3570 yuan)
(Reporting by Reuters fixed income team, Writing by Winni Zhou; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)