China cuts interest rates for third time in six months as economy sputters

Sun May 10, 2015 9:21am EDT
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By Judy Hua and Kevin Yao

BEIJING (Reuters) - China cut interest rates for the third time in six months on Sunday in a bid to lower companies' borrowing costs and stoke a sputtering economy that is headed for its worst year in a quarter of a century.

Analysts welcomed the widely-expected move, but predicted policymakers would relax reserve requirements and cut rates again in the coming months to counter the headwinds facing the world's second-largest economy.

The People's Bank of China (PBOC) said on its website it was lowering its benchmark, one-year lending rate by 25 basis points to 5.1 percent from May 11. It cut the benchmark deposit rate by the same amount to 2.25 percent.

"China's economy is still facing relatively big downward pressure," the PBOC said.

"At the same time, the overall level of domestic prices remains low, and real interest rates are still higher than the historical average," it said.

Sunday's rate cut came just days after weaker-than-expected April trade and inflation data, highlighting that China's economy is under persistent pressure from soft demand at home and abroad.

While the PBOC acknowledged the difficulties facing China's economy, it said in its statement accompanying the announcement that it wants to strike a balance between supporting growth and deepening structural reforms.

As part of these reforms, it lifted the ceiling for deposit rates on Sunday to 1.5 times the benchmark level, the biggest increase in the ceiling since it began to liberalize the interest rate system in 2012.   Continued...

A fluttering Chinese national flag casts its shadow on the headquarters of the People's Bank of China, China's central bank, in central Beijing in this November 24, 2014 file photo.   REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/Files