China hikes bank reserve rate to 13%

Updated: 2007-10-13 16:22

China ordered banks to set aside more money as reserves for the eighth time this year to cool speculation in stocks and real estate and curb the fastest inflation in 10 years.

Lenders must park 13 percent of deposits as reserves from October 25, up from 12.5 percent, the People's Bank of China said Saturday on its Web site. The required ratio is the highest in almost a decade.

The move is aimed at "strengthening liquidity management in the banking system and checking excessive credit growth", the central bank said in a statement. Excess liquidity could lead to price hikes and pour more fuel into the sizzling economy.

China's consumer prices surged 6.5 percent in August from a year earlier, the biggest jump since December 1996. The rate breached the government's annual 3 percent target for a fourth consecutive month, as food costs soared.

China's trade surplus jumped 56 percent in September, the customs authorities said Friday, taking it to US$185.65 billion for the first nine months of the year, more than the US$177.5 billion for all of last year.

Money supply is surging as the central bank sold the yuan to buy into the foreign currency brought into the country by the trade surplus. Some of that money is finding its way into stocks, pushing the benchmark CSI 300 Index up 181 percent this year. Money supply rose 18.5 percent in September.

China's commercial banks lent out 3.36 trillion yuan in the first nine months, surpassing the full-year figure in 2006.

The economy, the world's fourth largest, probably grew 11.5 percent in the third quarter, the government may announce next week, according to the median estimate of 14 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. The date for the release of the gross domestic product report hasn't been set.

Of 20,000 households surveyed in a central bank quarterly report released September 20, a record 61.3 percent said they expect inflation to quicken in the fourth quarter.

"The central bank will continue to give priority to managing inflationary expectations going forward," Wang Qing, chief China economist at Morgan Stanley in Hong Kong, said before the announcement. "Monetary policy focuses on addressing the risks of economic and asset-price overheating."

China has taken other action to combat rising prices.

All government-regulated prices have been frozen until year-end and the state has boosted the supply of grains, vegetables and pigs and cracked down on illegal collusive price increases. The central bank has sold bills to soak up cash from the financial system.

Stock and house prices have gained as households shifted money from low-yielding bank deposits. Household savings fell 41.8 billion yuan in August from the previous month. Housing prices jumped 20.8 percent in Shenzhen and 12.1 percent in Beijing in August.

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