China’s central bank unexpectedly slashed key interest rates for the second time in three months on Tuesday, the latest sign that the government is concerned that the world’s second-largest economy is experiencing a deepening slump.
The Associated Press reports:
The People’s Bank of China cut the interest rate on a one-week loan to banks to 1.8% from 1.9%.
“Today’s cuts suggest that the authorities’ concern about the state of the macroeconomy is mounting,” said Robert Carnell of ING in a report. “But that doesn’t mean that they are about to undertake unorthodox policy measures.”
Economic growth slid to 0.8% over the previous quarter in the three months ending in June from 2.2% in the January-March period. That is equivalent to 3.2% annual growth, which would be among China’s weakest in decades.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s government is trying to revive economic activity without resorting to a large-scale stimulus, possibly for fear of reigniting a rise in debt levels they worry are dangerously high.
That is hampered by a slump in China’s vast real estate industry following tighter government controls on debt levels at developers. Buyers are reluctant to commit when they are worried about possible job losses and whether construction of apartments they pay for might be suspended.
The ruling Communist Party is trying to revive business and consumer confidence by promising to help entrepreneurs but has yet to announce major spending or other policy changes. Xi’s government also is trying to revive interest among foreign investors, but business groups says companies are redirecting or delaying investments due to uncertainty about their status following an expansion of anti-spying rules and calls by Xi and other leaders for national economic self-reliance.
Exports in July plunged by an unusually large margin of 14.5% from a year earlier.
The country’s No. 2 leader, Premier Li Qiang, expressed confidence in May that the country can hit the ruling party’s annual growth target of “about 5%.” Growth in the second half of the year would need to be markedly stronger than the first half to achieve that.
In a separate announcement, Chinese officials said they had stopped reporting youth unemployment figures—which have soared in the post-pandemic period—denying economists, investors, and the Chinese public access to a key measure of the health of the Chinese economy.