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China raises deposit rate for housing provident fund

Updated: Feb 17,2016 9:36 PM     Xinhua

BEIJING — China will raise the deposit interest rate for its housing provident fund to give higher interest rates on their savings, the central bank said on Feb 17.

The rate will be increased to 1.5 percent starting from Feb 21, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) said in a statement. The current rate is 0.35 percent or 1.1 percent, depending on when the deposits were placed.

The housing provident fund is a saving program that allows employees and employers to set aside a portion of wages to be used as deposits on home purchases.

“The move will help employees gain reasonable returns from their deposits, making the program fairer and more effective,” the PBOC said.

The hike will not affect the country’s overall interest rate level, it noted.

Some analysts said the move will be an incentive for home buyers to make better use of the fund, thereby, helping house sales and reducing inventories, while others noted its role will be limited.

Chinese authorities have issued a slew of measures to revive the property market after it took a downturn in 2014 due to weak demand and a supply glut.

The government has lowered bank interest rates and cut down payments for first home buyers to digest mounting house inventories.

A higher deposit rate and lower loan rates will reduce the amount home buyers must borrow and help destock the property sector, said Zhang Hongwei, an analyst with Tospur Real Estate Consulting.

China has conducted six rounds of interest rate cuts since November 2014, bringing down the provident fund loan rates.

Yan Yuejin, an analyst at E-house China R&D Institute, said the higher deposit rate will encourage employees to deposit more into the provident fund, but the increase will be too small to make a big difference.

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