July 30, 2019 / 10:28 AM / 2 months ago

China will boost economy but won't use property market for stimulus: Politburo

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will step up efforts to boost demand and support the economy, but will not use the property market as a form of short-term stimulus, a top decision-making body of the ruling Communist Party said on Tuesday.

With China’s economic growth slowing to near 30-year lows, investors are waiting to see how much more stimulus Beijing will roll out, and if it will risk easing curbs on property markets to boost construction and investment.

Such a move could drive an even sharper build-up in household debt and risk property bubbles. The central bank reportedly told lenders last month not to lower mortgage rates further, but market watchers believe some cash-strapped local governments may be considering loosening restrictions on home buyers.

“China’s economic development is facing new risks and challenges, and downward pressure on the economy is increasing,” the official Xinhua news agency said on Tuesday, citing a Politburo meeting on the economy.

“Fiscal policy should be strengthened to improve efficiency and continue to implement the policy of tax and fee cuts,” it said, reaffirming that monetary policy will remain prudent to keep liquidity conditions ample.

The Politburo also said the government will take steps to cope with trade frictions, and work to stabilize employment, the financial sector, investment and market expectations.

Chinese and U.S. trade negotiators met in Shanghai on Tuesday for their first face-to-face talks since the two sides agreed on a tariff ceasefire late last month, though market expectations for any progress are low.

Beijing also will take various steps to boost domestic demand, including reforms to expand consumption and stabilize investment in the manufacturing industry, Xinhua said, without giving details.

China will balance its efforts to stabilize growth, promote reforms, adjust economic structures and prevent risks, it said.

“We should adhere to the principle that housing is used for living, not for speculation, implement the long-term mechanism for real estate, and will not use real estate as a short-term means of stimulating the economy,” the Politburo said.

Economic growth slowed to 6.2% in the second quarter, its weakest pace in at least 27 years, as demand at home and abroad faltered in the face of mounting U.S. trade pressure.

China is keeping all its economic policy tools within reach as the trade war with the United States gets longer and costlier, but still sees more aggressive action like interest rate cuts as a last resort should the dispute get worse, policy sources have told Reuters.

Central bank governor Yi Gang said recently that current interest rate levels are appropriate, amid speculation that China could trim rates soon if the U.S. Federal Reserve eases policy as widely expected on July 31.

With an eye on debt risks, Beijing has been leaning more heavily on fiscal stimulus during the current downturn, announcing tax cuts of nearly 2 trillion yuan and a quota of 2.15 trillion yuan for special bond issuance by local governments for infrastructure projects.

The central bank has cut banks’ reserve requirements (RRR) six times since early 2018, in a bid to spur bank lending, especially for small and private firms that are vital for economic growth and employment.

Analysts polled by Reuters expect further cuts in the RRR both in this quarter and next.

The Politburo also pledged to “guide” financial institutions to increase medium- and long-term financing for manufacturers and private enterprises.

Reporting by Beijing Monitoring Desk and Kevin Yao; Editing by Kim Coghill

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