China raises a key market interest rate, following Fed’s move

Beijing is expected to tighten financial regulations to counter market trends. (Reuters)
Updated 23 March 2018
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China raises a key market interest rate, following Fed’s move

SHANGHAI: China gingerly raised a key short-term interest rate on Thursday following the US. Federal Reserve Bank’s move overnight, in a symbolic reminder that Beijing is keeping an eye on global market trends even as it cracks down on financial risks at home.

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) said it had increased the rate on 7-day reverse repurchase agreements by 5 basis points (bps) to 2.55 percent. Reverse repos are one of its most commonly used tools to control liquidity in the financial system.

The Fed raised US interest rates by 25 bps, or a quarter of a percentage point, on Wednesday and forecast at least two more hikes for 2018.

The PBOC’s move had been widely expected and was its first major policy decision under new Governor Yi Gang, who was appointed by parliament on Monday as part of a sweeping reshuffle of China’s cabinet under ever-stronger President Xi Jinping.

“I think it’s just a symbolic rate hike again to avoid the China-US rate spread from widening too much,” said Ken Cheung, senior FX strategist at Mizuho Bank in Hong Kong.

“A 5 bps hike is enough because yuan depreciation is not a big concern. And the PBOC is refraining from lifting rates aggressively amid the regulation reform and benign inflation pressure.”

The PBOC also injected 10 billion yuan ($1.58 billion) into the financial system on Thursday.

Many market watchers had expected the PBOC to follow a Fed hike with a 5-10 bps increase in the borrowing cost for Chinese interbank loans.

That would keep the US-China rate differential from getting too wide — which would risk a resurgence in capital outflows from China.

But analysts said the move was also a signal to banks and other financial institutions that the government is pressing ahead this year with its campaign to reduce risks in the financial system.

Capital Economics said in a note that it believed the rate hike was an effort by the PBOC to show it would follow the Fed to minimize outflows and prevent a yield gap blow-out.

But the consultancy added that the PBOC may revert to looser monetary conditions in coming quarters if economic activity cools more than expected.
The PBOC had similarly inched up some rates after the Fed hiked its policy rate last March and December.

It began nudging up short-term market rates and those of its other liquidity tools in early 2017 as authorities’ clampdown on riskier financing practices kicked into higher gear, but it has moved cautiously to avoid a hit to the economy.

In a statement, the PBOC said the rate increase was a normal response to the Fed’s move that would help shape interest rate expectations and guide “reasonable” growth in credit.

The PBOC also raised rates on its standing lending facility (SLF) short-term loans by 5 bps, three sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.

With global markets expecting more monetary tightening in the US, economists think China will raise market rates again, although there is no clear consensus on how high they may go.

Nie Wen, an economist at Hwabao Trust in Shanghai, expected the PBOC to raise market rates by a total of 25 bps this year, but possibly as much as 50 bps if consumer inflation in China rises above 3 percent.

Economists at ANZ expect the 7-day reverse repo rate to rise another 30 bps this year as the PBOC continues with a tightening bias.

However, much of the official focus this year is expected to be on a continued tightening of the regulatory screws, with a flurry of measures already announced in the last few months.

Some market watchers also expect the PBOC to start moving benchmark rates again, but said the move would be asymmetric, with only the deposit rate rising to haul negative real deposit rates above the water line.

The PBOC has not changed its benchmark one-year lending and deposit rates since October 2015, with the central bank preferring to guide borrowing costs via liquidity operations and interbank market rates.

“On the one hand, the PBOC needs to push up the interest rate in the domestic financial market, so as to curb domestic financial speculation and prevent capital outflow,” said Chaoping Zhu, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management.

“On the other, given the probability of a correction in asset prices and the potential for economic slowdown, it is not an optimal choice to adjust up the benchmark deposit and lending rates. Therefore, increasing the 7-day reverse repo rate provides the PBOC with the flexibility to control market liquidity and financing costs.”

Analysts polled by Reuters expect China’s GDP growth to slow to 6.5 percent this year from 6.9 percent in 2017, pressured by higher borrowing costs and cooling investment in the property market.


Saudi Arabia has lion’s share of regional philanthropy

Updated 27 April 2018
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Saudi Arabia has lion’s share of regional philanthropy

  • Kingdom is home to three quarters of region's foundations
  • Combined asets of global foundations is $1.5 trillion

Nearly three quarters of philanthropic foundations in the Middle East are concentrated in Saudi Arabia, according to a new report.

The study, conducted by researchers at Harvard Kennedy School’s Hauser Institute with funding from Swiss bank UBS, also found that resources were highly concentrated in certain areas with education the most popular area for investment globally.

That trend was best illustrated in the Kingdom, where education ranked first among the target areas of local foundations.

While the combined assets of the world’s foundations are estimated at close to $1.5 trillion, half have no paid staff and small budgets of under $1 million. In fact, 90 percent of identified foundations have assets of less than $10 million, according to the Global Philanthropy Report. 

Developed over three years with inputs from twenty research teams across nineteen countries and Hong Kong, the report highlights the magnitude of global philanthropic investment.

A rapidly growing number of philanthropists are establishing foundations and institutions to focus, practice, and amplify these investments, said the report.
In recent years, philanthropy has witnessed a major shift. Wealthy individuals, families, and corporations are looking to give more, to give more strategically, and to increase the impact of their social investments.

Organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have become increasingly high profile — but at the same time, some governments, including India and China, have sought to limit the spread of cross-border philanthropy in certain sectors.

As the world is falling well short of raising the $ 5-7 trillion of annual investment needed to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, UBS sees the report findings as a call for philanthropists to work together to scale their impact.
 

Understanding this need for collaboration, UBS has established a global community where philanthropists can work together to drive sustainable impact.

Established in 2015 and with over 400 members, the Global Philanthropists Community hosted by UBS is the world’s largest private network exclusively for philanthropists and social investors, facilitating collaboration and sharing of best practices.

Josef Stadler, head of ultra high net worth wealth, UBS Global Management, said: “This report takes a much-needed step toward understanding global philanthropy so that, collectively, we might shape a more strategic and collaborative future, with philanthropists leading the way toward solving the great challenges of our time.”

This week Saudi Arabia said it would provide an additional $100 million of humanitarian aid in Syria, through the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center.

The UAE also this week said it had contributed $192 million to a housing project in Afghanistan through the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development.