Thursday, 19 July 2018 03:20

China Launches Quasi QE To Support Banks And Sliding Bond Market

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With the ECB's QE coming to an end at the end of the year (absent some shock to the market or economy), some traders have already been voicing concerns which central bank will step in and provide a backstop to the global fixed income market, especially once the BOJ joins the global tightening bandwagon (something it will soon have to as Japan is rapidly running out of monetizable securities, and just moments ago the BOJ announced it would trim its purchases of bonds in both the 10-25 and 25+ year bucket).

Today one answer emerged when China’s central bank - three weeks after its latest RRR cut - announced further easing measures, including the introduction of incentives that will boost the liquidity of commercial banks, helping them to expand lending and increase investment in bonds issued by corporates and other entities.

And in a surprising twist, in order to make sure that Chinese banks and financial institutions have ample liquidity, the PBOC appears to have engaged in quasi QE - using monetary policy instruments such as its medium term loan facility (MLF) - to support the local bond market and banks, especially those that have invested in bonds rated AA+ and below. Effectively, China will directly fund banks with ultra cheap liquidity, with one simple instruction: "increase bank lending and bond purchases." And since all Chinese banks are essentially state owned, what Beijing is doing is launching a form of stealthy QE, only one where it is not the central bank, but the country's various commercial banks that do the purchases... using central bank liquidity.

As a reminder, one month ago we noted that the spread between China's AAA and AA- rated bonds has spiked in the past three months, blowing out to levels not seen since August 2016, and an indication of the market's growing fears about the recent surge in Chinese corporate defaults.

It is this spread, and other indications of bond market tightness that the PBOC wants to address using its MLF and the various other central bank lending facilities as tools for managing short- and medium-term liquidity in the banking system. It has to ensure that there is adequate liquidity especially with economic uncertainties, given the trade dispute with the United States. Indicatively, back in July 2014, when describing the PBOC's Pledged Supplementary Lending facility, that we asked "Is this China's QE"? We now have the answer.

And speaking of the MLF, in June, the PBOC lent out 663 billion yuan, or roughly $100 billion, to financial institutions via the MLF, with the outstanding MLF totaling 4,420.50 billion yuan at the end of June, up from 4,017.00 billion yuan at the end of May.

Commenting on the move by the Chinese central bank, Goldman said that this is a sign that the government is stepping up its loosening measures given the weakness in May and June TSF data,...

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