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Glimmers of hope in Chinese monetary details

Simon Ward

Simon Ward

Economic Adviser

24 Aug 2021

Detailed monetary data for July released yesterday suggest that recent policy easing is beginning to support money growth, in turn hinting at a recovery in economic momentum from end-2021.

A sustained slowdown in six-month narrow money growth from July 2020 correctly signalled “surprise” Chinese economic weakness so far in 2021. The expectation here was that the PBoC would ease policy in Q2, supporting economic prospects for later in 2021. Adjustment was delayed but the reserve requirement ratio cut on 9 July appeared to mark a significant shift. The hope was that July monetary data would confirm a bottom in money growth.

The headline July numbers released on 11 August seemed to dash this hope, with six-month of “true M1” falling to a new low – see chart 1*.

The additional data released yesterday allow a breakdown of the deposit component of this measure between households, non-financial enterprises and government departments / organisations. It turns out that the further fall in growth in July was due to the latter public sector element, which is volatile and arguably less important for assessing prospects for demand and output.

Six-month growth of “private non-financial M1”, i.e. currency in circulation plus demand deposits of households and non-financial enterprises, rose for a second month in July. So did the corresponding broader M2 measure – chart 1.

This improvement needs to be confirmed by a recovery in overall narrow money growth in August, ideally accompanied by a further increase in the private sector measure. One concern is that the rebound in the latter has so far been driven by the household component – enterprise money growth remains weak.

Increased bond issuance and fiscal easing could lift public sector money growth during H2.

The corporate financing index in the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business monthly survey is a useful corroborating indicator of money / credit trends – a rise signals easier conditions. The index bottomed in March but has yet to improve much – chart 2. August survey results will be released shortly.

*True M1 includes household demand deposits, which are omitted from the official M1 measure.

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