Heading into the Chinese Lunar New Year, local banks are suddenly starved for liquidity like never before. On Tuesday China’s benchmark money-market rate jumped the most in two years, with unprecedented cash injections by the central bank being overwhelmed by demand before the Lunar New Year holidays.
Demand for cash in China tends to increase before the Lunar New Year holidays, when households withdraw money to pay for gifts and get-togethers. Month-end corporate tax payments are adding to the pressure this time, with the break running from Jan. 27 through Feb. 2. At that point the PBOC usually steps in with liquidity "injections" in the form of reverse repos. However, what it has done this year is literally off the charts.
On Wednesday, the People’s Bank of China put in a net 410 billion yuan ($60 billion) through open-market operations, the biggest daily "injection" on record. Despite this massive boost in liquidity, the interbank seven-day repurchase rate still jumped 35 basis points, the most since December 2014, to 2.76 percent, according to weighted average prices. Yesterday, the overnight repo rate rose 10 basis points to 2.50 percent, the highest since April 2015, according to weighted average prices.
So, with liquidity still scarce, moments ago on Thursday morning, the PBOC added another net injection of 190 billion consisting of 100Bn in 7-day repo and 150BN in 28-day repos, offset by 60bn yuan in previous loans maturing.
As a result, the PBOC has injected a net of 1.035 trillion yuan via reverse repos so far this week, an all time high.
It was unclear if the rise in 7-day interbank repo rate had continued to rise.
“The PBOC aims to ensure that the liquidity situation remains adequate, while the 28-day reverse repo is apparently targeted at covering the holidays,” said Frances Cheung, head of rates strategy for Asia ex-Japan at Societe Generale SA. “There could also be preparation for any indirect tightening impact from potential outflows.”
Liquidity conditions are under pressure also because loans are due to mature under the Medium-term Lending Facility, according to Long Hongliang, a trader at Bank of Hebei Co. in Beijing. There are 216.5 billion yuan of MLF contracts maturing this week, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The PBOC offered 305.5 billion yuan of loans to lenders using the tool on Jan. 13, compared with 105.5 billion yuan due that day.
As Bloomberg notes, China’s central bank has been offering more 28-day reverse repos than one-week loans in the past two weeks, while curbing the injection of cheaper, short-term funds amid efforts to lower leverage in the financial system. It drained a net 595 billion yuan in the first week of January, before switching to a net injection of 100 billion yuan last week as the seasonal funding demand started to emerge. However, this week's injection so far of over CNY 1 trillion suggests that there may be something more to the banks' liquidity needs than simple calendar action.