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Global monetary update: ongoing slowdown, China bottoming?

Simon Ward

Simon Ward

Economic Adviser

4 Jun 2021

Additional country releases in recent days confirm that global six-month real narrow money growth fell further in April, to its slowest pace since January 2020 – see chart 1. The decline from a peak in July 2020 is the basis for the forecast here of a significant cooling of global industrial momentum during H2 2021.

The April fall reflected both slower nominal money growth and a further pick-up in six-month consumer price momentum – chart 2. The latter is probably at or close to a short-term peak and the central scenario here remains that real money growth will stabilise and recover into Q3. The risk is that nominal money trends continue to soften – the boost to US numbers from disbursement of stimulus payments may be over and this year’s rise in longer-term yields may act as a drag.

Six-month growth of real broad money and bank lending also moved down in April, with the former close to its post-GFC average and the latter considerably weaker – chart 3. Forecasts last year that government guarantee programmes would lead to a lending boom have so far proved wide of the mark; monetary financing of budget deficits, mainly by central banks, remains the key driver of broad money expansion.

Charts 4 and 5 shows six-month growth rates of real narrow and broad money in selected major economies. The UK remains at the top of the range on both measures, supporting optimism about near-term relative economic prospects, although slowing QE and a sharp rise in inflation promise to erode the current lead.

Eurozone real money growth, by contrast, is relatively weak: monetary deficit financing has been on a smaller scale than in the US / UK, while six-month inflation is higher than in the UK / Japan. Bank lending has been expanding at a similar pace in the Eurozone and UK. The recent step-up in ECB PEPP purchases could lift Eurozone broad money growth although the change is modest and could be offset by an increased capital outflow – see previous post.

China remains at the bottom of the ranges and monetary weakness was expected here to trigger PBoC easing by mid-year. Policy shifts usually proceed “under the radar” via money market operations and directions to state-run banks. The managed decline in three-month SHIBOR continued this week, while the corporate financing index in the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business survey stabilised in April / May after falling over October-March, which could be a sign that banks have been instructed to increase loan supply.

The PBOC’s quarterly bankers’ survey, due for release later this month, could provide further corroboration of a policy shift: the differential between loan approval and loan demand indices leads money growth swings – chart 6. Monetary reacceleration in China remains the most likely driver of a rebound in global six-month real narrow money growth – required to support a forecast that H2 industrial cooling will represent a pause in an ongoing upswing rather than a foretaste of more significant weakness in 2022.

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