The People's Bank of China announced yesterday (Wednesday) that it would lower the percentage of deposits commercial banks must hold in reserve by 50 basis points, effective Dec. 5.
This is China's first reserve requirement cut since 2008. It drops the level to 21% for large banks and 19% for smaller institutions.
The move was unexpected from the world's second-largest economy, which has been tightening its monetary policy for more than a year.
The change underscores the country's concern that exports, its main driver of economic growth, would weaken due to lower demand from the troubled Eurozone, China's biggest consumer. However, it's also a signal that after a year of tapping the brakes on growth to curb inflation, Beijing is ready to put its foot back on the accelerator.
"This is a clear signal that Beijing has decided that the balance of risks now lies with growth, rather than inflation," Stephen Green, greater China head of research at Standard Chartered, told The Financial Times. "This is a big move, it signals China is now in loosening mode."
China's gross domestic product (GDP) in the third quarter grew by 9.1% -- the slowest pace in two years and down from 9.5% in the previous three months. That's the fourth consecutive quarter of declining GDP growth.
Loosening China's Monetary PolicyChina fears its best customers, Europe and the United States, will keep reducing their imports as they're burdened with weak economies. Chinese exports in October rose by 15.9%, the smallest amount in two years.
"The weakness in exports was very much in line with the global environment, especially the slowdown in Europe, and that's going to continue through to the first quarter of next year," Li Cui, an economist with the Royal Bank of Scotland, told Reuters. "I think the underlying weakness is perhaps even weaker. [M]y estimation is that the real growth could only be around 7% to 8%, adjusting for export prices."