BEIJING — At first glance, the interest cut announced on May 10 by China’s central bank has broad implications for an economy facing significant downward pressure. But it could also make a difference for regular citizens.
The rate cut’s relevance to the livelihoods of ordinary Chinese seemed stronger than ever, as more Chinese are pouring wealth into the country’s stock market and a housing market under correction has kept many buyers on the sidelines for months.
The cut is seen by many as adding fresh fuel to China’s record-setting stock rally. China’s stock market went through a bumpy ride last week, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index down more than 4 percent on May 5, the largest in three months.
The rate cut buoyed sentiment for equities on May 11, as the Shanghai Composite Index rose 3.04 percent to close at 4,333.58 while stocks listed in Shenzhen surged 3.2 percent to 14,944.88.
Feng Yu, a retail investor in his twenties, told Xinhua he welcomes the rate cut as a strong boost to the stock market.
In his view, China’s stock market will be flooded by more liquidities “from everywhere”.
According to Feng, there will be more cuts in interest rate and banks’ reserve requirement ratio in the coming months, more people are opening stock accounts and the social security funds are also expected to be allowed to enter the stock market.
“All these suggest that we’ll see more money going into the stock market to sustain the rally,” Feng said, adding that he will also seek to increase his gain in the stock market with increased leverage.
A veteran retail investor who has weathered the ups and downs of China’s stock market, Wang Yihan takes a more cautious attitude toward the rate cut’s impact on equities.
“Both economic data and listed companies first quarter earnings are bad. I just don’t think Sunday’s rate cut can fuel the stock market rally just as much as the cut in November,” Wang said.
After the central bank’s interest rate cut in November 21 last year, China’s stock market has rallied more than 70 percent.
Wang’s worries came mostly from the divergence between stock price and companies’ underlying fundamentals. “If listed companies’ earnings don’t improve, the bubble will just have to burst some day. I’d rather be more careful at the moment,” She said.
Zheng Yongqi, a treasurer with a Shanghai-based foreign firm, also thinks the rate cut’s effect on the stock market is gradually tapering off.
“Interest rate cut can no longer lead to an across-the-board rise in equities but there are still plenty of opportunities in the market.”
For Zheng, the opportunities lies in companies that benefit from the government’s reform agenda.
“I’m just tired of listening to all these tips for stock picks,” said Zheng, “from now on I will make investment decisions based on company’s performance and the government policies.”
The rate cut on May 10, the third since November, follows a raft of data released last week suggesting slowing momentum in the economy.
Manufacturing activities surveyed by the HSBC Producer Manager Index (PMI) dipped to a one-year-low of 48.9.
Both export and import tumbled surprisingly in April. Export was down 6.4 percent while import fell 16.2 percent.
Consumer price remain mild at 1.5 percent in April while producer price fell for the 38th month to 4.6 percent in the same period.
The impact of rate cut will likely benefit large borrowers and housing mortgage borrowers the most, said J.P. Morgan China chief economist Zhu Haibin.
“I’m really grateful for this rate cut. I took an 800,000 mortgage and this rate cut allows me to pay 6,000 less a year. That’s three months’ rent for me,” said Yan Dingfu, who works in Shanghai.
Yan couldn’t afford the down payment required for homes sold in the Chinese financial hub. Instead, he bought a home in Shanghai’s neighboring city Jiashan, hoping that the rate cut, combined with other property easing measures released since March this year, will allow him to sell his home at a higher price in the future and eventually let him settle down in Shanghai.
China’s central bank lowered down payments for home buyers and the Ministry of Finance reduced transaction costs for homes sold in the secondary market at the end of March.
Home sales in top-tier Chinese cities have rebounded in April thanks to the easing policies, statistics from independent real estate monitors show.
“The rate cut will aid the property market’s recovery by reducing the cost for buying homes and stimulating demand,” said Yang Hongxu, vice dean of E-house China R & D Institute, a property consultancy.
“Home prices in top-tier cities are already going up, while sales volumes are picking up in second and third-tier cities. The rate cut will accelerate this process,” Yang said.
“The rate cut will not make buying an apartment cheaper for us. But it prompts us to make decisions fast because if we don’t buy home now, it will become more expensive in the future,” said another Shanghai home buyer.