Australia and China cut rates to stimulate economy
The Reserve Bank of Australia lowered its cash rate by 25 basis points to two percent in early May. The Bank had already dropped the cash rate by 25 basis points in February this year. In announcing its decision, the Bank commented on the decline in international commodity prices over the past year, which had resulted in a decline in Australia’s terms of trade. As a result, business capital expenditure (especially in mining) is expected to be weak. The Bank is expecting stronger growth in employment and an improvement in household demand. Low mortgage rates are resulting in strong house price inflation, especially in Sydney, and the Bank is “…working with other regulators to assess and contain risks that may arise from the housing market”.
China’s third interest rate cut in six months has spurred concerns the mainland’s economic slowdown is hitting where it hurts: the labour market. The People’s Bank of China (POBC) reduced reserve requirement ratios in April (the proportion of funds that banks have to hold with the central bank) in an effort to promote lending growth in the country. It has been reported that the cut in the reserve requirements ratio will allow banks to increase lending by about 1.2 trillion yuan. The POBC also reduced both the benchmark lending and deposit rate by 25 basis points to 5.1 percent and 2.25 percent, respectively, in response to weaker-than-expected economic activity data, which has raised concerns that the government’s annual gross domestic growth (GDP) target of “around 7 percent” might not be accomplished. Maintaining stable employment has been a top priority for the Chinese government as it steers the world’s second largest economy away from an export-driven model to one based on consumption.