Business / Economy

GDP growth may fall to 6.8% this year, says Nomura

By Chen Jia (China Daily) Updated: 2015-03-20 07:14

China's GDP growth may slip below 7 percent in the first quarter, and fall to 6.8 percent annually - both lower than the government's target - as momentum in the property sector and infrastructure investment remain weak, Nomura Securities Co Ltd said on Thursday.

The wholly owned subsidiary of Nomura Holdings Inc, the financial services group and global investment bank based in Tokyo, has cut its first quarter growth prediction to 6.9 percent from 7.1 percent, after a raft of official Chinese economic data revealed multi-year lows in January and February.

"It is hard to see an obvious rebound in March and we expect a further downturn may remain until the third quarter," said Zhao Yang, Nomura's chief economist in China.

The whole year's growth rate is likely to retreat to 6.8 percent from last year's 7.4 percent, and further slow to 6.5 percent next year, Zhao said.

The economist also expects an easing in monetary policy, with possibly three more cuts in benchmark interest rates and another three cuts in the reserve requirement ratio.

Commenting on reports on Thursday that the US Federal Reserve could well be modifying its stance on interest rates, which have been kept at a record low of zero since the 2008 financial crisis, Zhao said China's domestic monetary policy would be little influenced by any rises there, because its capital account has not yet been fully opened.

"The central bank still has weapons to offset short-term capital outflows by increasing liquidity," Zhao said.

The Fed appears to be inching closer to an interest rate hike, dropping the word "patient" from the statement it released after its two-day meeting in Washington, although Chair Janet Yellen insisted removing the word from the statement "does not mean we are going to be impatient".

Nomura is not the only international financial institution to lower its China growth expectation. A research note from the Goldman Sachs has adjusted its full-year average annual GDP growth forecast to 7 percent from 7.1 percent previously, and first quarter growth to 7.2 percent, down from 7.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014.

"The adjustment reflects a downside surprise to the January-February data, as well as expectations of a policy loosening-led rebound in March and the second quarter this year," said Song Yu, an economist at the brokerage.

Premier Li Keqiang chaired a State Council meeting on Wednesday which stated the government will make sure the economy remains in the range of reasonable growth, pledging more flexible monetary and fiscal policy-making, and "stepped up" targeted policy supports.

"Investment demand is again a key focus of the leadership, especially infrastructure investments including railway, water irrigation, and shanty town redevelopment," said Song.

"We see this as a clear sign that the leadership is seriously concerned about the weakness in the economy and is taking action to address the issue," he said.

The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development released a report on Wednesday predicting China to grow by about 7 percent annually in both 2015 and 2016.

Low oil prices and monetary easing are boosting growth in the world's major economies, but the near-term pace of expansion remains modest, with abnormally low inflation and interest rates pointing to risks of financial instability, according to the organization.

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