China policymakers pledge stability for 'complex' year ahead

Fri Dec 30, 2016 10:28pm EST
 
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BEIJING (Reuters) - China's economy is on a steady growth path as 2016 ends, supported by a housing boom and billions in government investment, but the mood of policymakers is more cautious than celebratory as they face "complexity" in the new year.

Controlling risks has been a constant refrain in recent months as the focus of policymakers switches to taming asset bubbles and checking unbalanced growth stemming from efforts to fuel the economy with credit.

The central bank - while reaffirming a long-standing commitment to prudent policy - said on Friday it would pay more attention to maintaining a "neutral" stance and ensure that it is "neither too tight nor too loose".

"At present, China's economic and financial operations are generally stable, but the complexity of the situation cannot be underestimated," the People's Bank of China (PBOC) said.

Bank lending is on pace to top 2015's record 11.71 trillion yuan ($1.7 trillion), helping to stoke a housing boom that saw prices rise a historic 12.6 percent year-on-year in November, while fixed asset investment by state firms is growing more than 20 percent.

But growth has become more imbalanced this year as the effectiveness of new credit declines and companies and individuals face mounting debts, economists say.

Policy insiders expect monetary policy to tilt towards slight tightening in 2017 as the government tries to strike a balance between supporting the economy with ample credit and preventing a destabilising build-up in debt.

Central bank adviser Sheng Songcheng told Reuters in an interview on Thursday that interest rates in China were already on an upward trend as the economy improved.

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New properties are seen near a square in Zhengzhou, Henan province, China, September 23, 2016. Picture taken September 23, 2016. REUTERS/Yawen Chen/File Photo