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Economists trim China growth forecasts, expect more stimulus measures

HONG KONG - Economists surveyed by Bloomberg now expect China’s gross domestic product to expand 5.5 per cent this year from a year ago, edging down from a prior estimate of 5.6 per cent. The government has set a fairly conservative growth goal of around 5 per cent for the year.

China’s economic recovery has lost momentum in recent weeks after an initial burst in consumer activity. Data this month showed industrial output, retail sales and fixed investment growing at slower paces than expected, while inflation is close to zero and consumers have been reluctant to borrow.

The slowing economic momentum has led to speculation over whether the central bank will ease policy to spur the recovery.

China’s central bank will likely cut the reserve requirement ratio for major banks earlier than expected as the economic recovery loses steam, according to the latest Bloomberg survey of economists.

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) is expected to cut the ratio - or the amount of cash banks have to keep in reserve - for major lenders by 25 basis points by the end of the third quarter of 2023, according to the median of forecasts. Economists had earlier predicted a cut in the final three months of the year.

A cut by that amount would bring the ratio down to 10.5 per cent from 10.75 per cent. The survey respondents saw the ratio likely to stay on hold until at least the end of 2024 if it’s trimmed this year.

Economists surveyed by Bloomberg predict the rate on the one-year policy loans will be left unchanged this year. They also saw no adjustments to the one-year loan prime rate, a benchmark lending rate for commercial lenders.

Research by Bloomberg Economics shows a 25 basis-point reduction in the RRR would give the economy a bigger growth boost than a 10 basis-point cut in the PBOC’s key interest rates.

“The government’s conservative 2023 GDP growth target of 5 per cent provides some room for the central bank to be patient on monetary policy easing,” said Brian Lee, economist at Maybank Securities.

He said authorities instead are relying on more targeted policy measures, such as encouraging more investment in infrastructure and manufacturing, as well as city-level property easing moves.

The growth outlook for the second quarter was cut to 7.7 per cent year on year from 8 per cent, weighed down by the uneven recovery.

Economists see GDP growth moderating to 4.9 per cent next year and 4.6 per cent in 2025. BLOOMBERG