China benchmark lending rates seen lower even as other c.banks tighten

SHANGHAI, Dec 17 (Reuters) - China's benchmark lending rates will likely be set lower next Monday, after standing still for 20 months, according to a Reuters flash poll, highlighting Beijing's monetary policy divergence with other major global economies.

Twenty-nine out of the 40 traders and economists polled by Reuters on Friday predicted cuts in China's loan prime rate (LPR), citing the need to aid a slowing economy, and easier monetary conditions.

Among those polled, 15 forecast a five-basis-point (BP) cut in the one-year LPR only, while 14 predicted cuts of that magnitude in both the one-year and five-year LPRs.

The poll was conducted in a busy week for central banks that saw major economies start to withdraw from pandemic-era stimulus. The U.S. Federal Reserve signalled several rate hikes next year while the Norges Bank and the Bank of England raised interest rates. read more

A cut in LPR this month would be unusual, because China's central bank on Dec. 15 left unchanged the rate for one-year medium-term lending facility (MLF) loans, to which LPR rates are typically pegged.

One-year LPR now stands at 3.85%, while five-year LPR is at 4.65%. Both rates have not changed since April 2020.

A trader, who declined to be named, said he predicted LPR cuts because "many sectors, and people are suffering in a slowing economy," while the central bank is guiding rates lower.

The People's Bank (PBOC) of China said on Thursday it would keep liquidity reasonably ample, and help lower companies' financing costs. read more

Some analysts say China's latest cuts in banks' required reserve ratios (RRRs) also created room for banks to lower their lending rates. read more

PBOC announces LPRs on the 20th of each month after collecting quotations from 18 select banks.

Reporting by SHANGHAI NEWSROOM; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa

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