20 October 2010

Why China raise interest rate? And, what's the effect?

Yesterday, China surprisingly raised its interest rate by 0.25% as follows:
- 1 year lending rate from 5.31% to 5.56%
- 1 year deposit rate from 2.25% to 2.50%

Why China raise interest rate?
1. To cool down the over-heating property sector.
2. Combat inflation
3. Low liquidity in the banking system

While inflation was hovering around 3.5% currently, even though the deposit rate has been raised, the net real interest rate is still in negative territory (3.5% - 2.5% = -1.0%). This is one of the main reason why Chinese were going all out to invests, especially in real-estate, due to its low yield if sitting in the bank (even lower than Malaysia).

However, China would be facing another problem...

Raising interest rate would attract capital inflows, which could dampen the purpose of containing inflation. Foreign investors view Chinese renmimbi as undervalue, mainly due to interventions by Chinese government. The latest news could ignite a fresh round of thoughts, worsening the current situation, pushing renmimbi higher and faster.

In fact, China should target it's main problem specifically - real estate. Inflation there is mainly caused by high flying properties prices. Hence, measure such as property gain tax should be introduced first, before raising interest rate, to avoid further attracting inflow of hot-money.

Affecting Malaysia?

Given that China is one of the largest trade partner with us, Malaysia could see a surge in capital inflow also. In fact, the whole region will experience the same fate of stronger currency, making our export to western countries more expensive. Anyway, I believe that we can offset the negative effect with China being the largest commodities / resources consumer, which supplied by Asian countries.

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