The People’s Bank of China has unexpectedly cut interest rates again, for the fifth time this year, in yet another effort by policymakers to goose a faltering economy. The rate cut of .25 percent, which brought its one-year benchmark down to 4.35 percent, was accompanied by a loosening of reserve requirements for banks by 50 basis points. Commodities, the Australian dollar, and European equities were up on the news, with S&P futures up almost 1 percent ahead of markets opening.
Some analysts have been saying the Chinese economy is starting to do better, but that’s both right and wrong. In order to maintain high rates of growth, China needs to transition away from heavy industry and toward services. Our reading of Monday’s growth figures suggests that may be starting to happen, which is good news.
But transforming the economy will take time, and will likely occur during a period of slower growth. PBoC wouldn’t cut rates if it were satisfied with the country’s growth numbers. That’s not to mention that China’s official numbers are notoriously unreliable, and it may be better to base one’s analysis on the actions of its government than on the official figures.
As we noted on Monday, the short-term and long-term losers here are commodities-rich emerging markets. A less energetic China means less demand for raw materials from Brazil, South Africa, and others. But if the long-term trends bring a services-based Chinese economy rather than a manufacturing one, that won’t be good for commodities suppliers either.