Reserve hike by Chinese rattles global investors

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Reserve hike by Chinese rattles global investors

The Chinese government’s decision to raise its yuan reserve requirement for banks rattled global financial markets yesterday, pummeling Korea’s benchmark Kospi to the lowest level in more than three weeks and sharply hitting share prices of major exporters to China. But analysts said the latest move by Beijing, aimed at staving off inflation stemming from a massive liquidity influx at home and overseas, is unlikely to weaken Korea’s strong growth and financial markets in the long term.

They predicted the action would instead curb growing concern about potential hazards of inflationary pressure, and indicates Beijing’s confidence that China’s rapid growth is strong enough to withstand potential fallout from a policy of fiscal tightening.

Seoul’s benchmark Kospi shed 27.23 points, or 1.6 percent, to close at 1,671.41 yesterday, the lowest level since Dec. 23 when it closed at 1,661.35. The decline came after the Dow Jones industrial average lost more than 0.3 percent and European markets shed more than 1 percent.

The Chinese central bank said yesterday it would increase commercial lenders’ reserve requirement ratio by 0.5 percentage points as of Jan. 18, making itself one of the latest economies to start scaling back expansionary policies embraced in the wake of the recent economic downturn. The move sparked concern that China’s massive purchases of natural resources, commodities and other raw materials from overseas may slow down.

Such concern was evident in Seoul yesterday. Share prices of Korean steelmakers and chemical companies, largely relying on exports to China, experienced significant weakening. Posco, Korea’s largest steel company, slid 4.49 percent to close at 596,000 won, while smaller Dongkuk Steel lost 5.29 percent to close at 25,050. Chemical behemoths like Hanwha Chemical and LG Chem shed 6.71 percent and 2.26 percent, respectively.

“Investors have been waiting for a long time for a signal that China will begin exit measures taken during the downturn,” said Oh Jae-yul, stock market analyst for IBK Investment & Securities. “The earlier-than-expected increase in reserve requirement will certainly put an emotional burden on the stock markets given that it can be translated as the precursors of more exit measures to come.”

But analysts said the latest move would unlikely hamper the market sentiment for long. “The Chinese economy would be able to achieve an annual growth of 10 percent for 2010 despite the reserve requirement change, meaning the change will hardly damage Korean exporters’ sales,” said Lim No-joong, analyst at Solomon Investment & Securities.

The tightened reserve requirement also means that China’s liquidity would be reduced to near “normal levels,” which bodes well for the health of that nation’s credit situation, said Yoon Chang-yong, economist at IBK Investment & Securities.

By Jung Ha-won [hawon@joongang.co.kr]

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유동성 과잉 막겠다는 신호


중국 인민은행이 시중은행의 지급준비율을 전격 인상한 것은 시중에 풀린 유동성을 3000억 위안(약 51조원)가량 흡수해 인플레 우려에 선제적으로 대응하기 위해서다. 이번 조치를 통해 인민은행은 유동성 과잉 현상을 방치하지 않겠다는 신호를 시장에 분명하게 전달했다.

글로벌 금융위기 여파로 경기가 급격히 얼어붙었던 2008년 9월부터 연말까지 인민은행은 네 차례 지준율을 내렸었다. 그해 12월 말 인민은행이 지준율을 0.5%포인트 인하한 이후 13개월 만에 지준율 인상으로 방향을 선회했다. 인민은행이 7일 5개월 만에 처음으로 국채 3개월물의 입찰 수익률을 0.0404%포인트 인상한 것도 같은 맥락이다. 2008년 하반기와 달리 최근의 상황이 많이 바뀌었기 때문이다. 저우샤오촨(周小川) 인민은행장은 연초부터 “은행들이 대출 속도를 신중히 조절해야 한다”고 말해 이번 조치를 어느 정도 예고했었다.

내수 경기 부양을 위해 느슨한 통화 정책을 펴면서 지난해 금융권 대출은 당초 정책 당국 목표치의 배에 달하는 10조 위안(약 1700조원)에 달했다. 줄어든 수출을 내수로 상쇄해 성장률을 보전하기 위해 당국이 느슨한 통화정책을 썼기 때문이다. 이로 인해 시중에 풀린 돈이 부동산 시장으로 흘러들면서 주요 도시의 부동산 가격이 폭등하기도 했다.

연말에 식용유를 비롯한 식료품 가격뿐 아니라 휘발유·상하수도요금 등이 일제히 오르면서 올해 물가 관리에도 비상등이 켜진 상태다. 하락세였던 물가는 10개월 만인 지난해 11월 상승세로 돌아섰다.

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