A woman walks past the headquarters of the People’s Bank of China in Beijing, China.
Jason Lee | Reuters
BEIJING – China’s consumer prices will likely decline in July before recovering, Liu Guoqiang, deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China, told reporters Friday.
Official measures of consumer prices have barely changed in the last several months amid tepid demand, in contrast to high inflation in the U.S. and Europe.
“This year CPI’s year-on-year growth has softened, and July may see a decline,” Liu said. He claimed the drop was only a “phase” due to the recovery of demand and base effects.
“At this time there is no deflation, and there will be no risk of deflation in the second half of the year,” he said, pointing to factors such as China’s economic recovery and growth in money supply.
New bank loans for June grew by more than analysts polled by Reuters had expected.
The central bank said in April consumer prices would likely see a “U-shaped” recovery this year.
Liu reiterated that forecast on Friday, and said he expected consumer price increases could near 1% by the end of the year.
China on Monday reported no change in consumer prices for June from a year ago. Excluding food and energy, consumer prices rose by 0.4% from a year ago.
Taking 0% CPI with a market benchmark lending rate of 3.55%, China’s real interest rate is above 3%, Bruce Pang, chief economist and head of research for Greater China at JLL, pointed out.
In contrast, the real U.S. interest rate is roughly 0.5% given its approximately 4.5% core inflation and lending rate of above 5%, he said.
“So China should actually cut rates,” he said, noting that if prices turned deflationary the net effect would be that of a rate hike.
China’s economic recovery from the pandemic has stalled in recent months, with lackluster retail sales, the continued overhang of the property market slump and plunging exports. The country is set to report second-quarter GDP on Monday.
“The policies we have announced are currently taking effect,” the PBOC’s Liu said on Friday. “We need to have patience and confidence regarding the economy’s stable growth.”
He noted expectations it will take a year for China’s economy to recover.
China has set a GDP target of around 5% for the year, lower than most institutions’ current forecasts.
Beijing is reluctant to embark on another round of large-scale stimulus. Debt levels have soared, especially for local governments whose ability to repay the debt has diminished.
On Monday, China said that measures it announced in November to support the real estate sector would be extended to the end of 2024. Beijing has focused on ensuring that construction on apartments — which are typically sold ahead of completion in China — are delivered to homebuyers.
Developers are turning to commercial bank loans, Zou Lan, director of the PBOC’s monetary policy department, told reporters at the same briefing on Friday. He noted that new loans to developers in the first half of this year totaled 420 billion yuan ($58.9 billion), or about 200 billion yuan more than a year ago.
He described the real estate market as “stable” overall, but said that “some real estate companies’ long-accumulated risks require a period of time to gradually absorb.”
Zou said financial ministries will actively work together with other ministries to study policies to make them more targeted. He said that was out of “consideration of deep changes in the relationship between supply and demand in [China’s] real estate market.”
China is meanwhile looking to bolster the domestic tech industry as a way to support growth and ensure self-sufficiency against U.S. sanctions.
China announced in late June its top body, the State Council, passed a plan for strengthening support for tech companies’ financing.
When asked about the plan on Friday, the PBOC’s Liu said the measures included strengthening external support, including the use of international capital markets.