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Money supply slows as deleveraging gains ground

Updated: Jan 17,2018 8:58 AM     Chen Jia

Slower growth in China’s money supply will become common as the country continues its deleveraging efforts under tighter regulations, experts said.

By the end of last year, the M2, a broad measure of the money supply that covers cash in circulation and all deposits, rose 8.2 percent to 167.68 trillion yuan ($26 trillion), this was the slowest pace since 1994 when it was calculated the first time in China, according to data from the People’s Bank of China, the central bank.

M2 growth dropped from 11.3 percent at the end of 2016, ending the double-digit rates seen in the previous 20-plus years.

The lower-than-expected figure came mainly because of a squeezing of money holdings in the financial sector, which dragged down about 0.7 percentage points of the M2 growth rate, said Xie Yaxuan, an economist at China Merchants Securities.

According to the central bank, the M2 growth rate for the financial sector was 7.2 percent last year, and the relatively slower pace could indicate capital shortage for banks’ liabilities after the financial regulator issued a series of new rules to tighten supervision on shadow banking business, said Xie.

Ruan Jianhong, head of the central bank’s survey and statistics division, said at a news briefing last week that current monetary conditions and sound economic performance provided good timing for further deleveraging.

“In the future, slower M2 growth than before will become the ‘new normal,’ as the country’s deleveraging process deepens and the financial sector gets back to the function of serving the economy,” Ruan said.

Ming Ming, an analyst with CITIC Securities, said that this year, the M2 is expected to stay between 8 and 10 percent, considering the new financial regulations, especially those on overseeing the asset and wealth management products (a main source of shadow banking financing), may constrain liquidity in the financial sector.

In November last year, Chinese regulators released draft guidelines that will unify rules covering asset management products issued by all types of financial institutions to curb financial risks and reduce the leverage ratio.

The guidelines require financial institutions to set leverage ceilings on asset management products.

Amid the deleveraging process and tougher financial regulations, the slower growth indicated that capital usage by commercial banks has become better regulated with less funds circulating inside the financial sector and less derivative deposits, according to the PBOC official Ruan.

She also said that factors affecting money supply had become more complicated than before due to market developments and financial innovations. Hence, the M2 figure is now less predictable, less controllable and less relevant to the economy.

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