China likely to ease again if inflation falls - central bank adviser

Updated: 2015-03-12 11:32


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China likely to ease again if inflation falls - central bank adviser

Qian Yingyi, who holds a Ph.D from Harvard University and a masters degree from Yale, is a member of the central bank's monetary policy committee and an economics professor at Tsinghua University. [Photo/IC]

Housing market not stimulus tool

China's economy has struggled over the last 15 months or so, weighed down by a property downturn, rising debt and lethargic foreign and domestic demand - which have all dented growth in exports, investment, manufacturing and retail sales.

The government last week said it was lowering its 2015 growth target for gross domestic product (GDP) to around 7 percent, from around 7.5 percent last year.

Qian, who holds a Ph.D from Harvard University and a masters degree from Yale, was sanguine about the economic outlook, arguing that advancing reforms was "much, much more important".

As a result, he said he did not expect Chinese policymakers to lower downpayment levels again for home buyers or discount mortgage rates any time soon.

"(China) needs the development of the real estate sector, but not use it as a stimulus tool to speed up GDP growth," said the bespectacled professor.

Chinese regulators - including the central bank - cut mortgage rates and downpayment levels in September to support a property sector that accounts for about 15 percent of the economy.

Fears that the move risked re-inflating an asset price bubble have so far proved unfounded - data on Wednesday showed property sales in China dropped by the most in three years in the first two months of 2015.

Qian, who described the central bank as the biggest supporter of China's financial and economic reforms, said he "won't be surprised" if an insurance program for bank depositors was launched before the end of June.

Experts believe insuring depositors is a crucial step to ensuring banks price loans according to risk.

There has been speculation in financial markets that China could also further relax currency controls by widening the yuan's trading band to allow movement up or down by 3 percent from a fixed value on any given day, from 2 percent now.

Qian said allowing the currency to trade more freely was on the cards this year if China does not experience volatile cross-border capital flows. China saw record capital outflows in the fourth quarter of 2014, as the economy stumbled.

"My expectation is if flows are mild or modest, I would expect more expansion in the band," said Qian. "If it's too volatile, I would expect the government to be cautious."

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