Chinese financial markets experienced turbulence in 2013, aggravated by two severe surges in short-term interest rates.
It was also a year when economists furiously downgraded their growth forecasts in the first half of the year, prompting premier Li Keqiang to step in and put a floor on growth.
But there are four key things that will dominate the Chinese economy and markets in 2014, according to Bank of America’s Ting Lu.
- Xi Jinping could push for a wider range of reforms.In terms of financial reforms, bond markets could be opened up to local governments, interest rate liberalization could be on the agenda, more regulations to crack down on shadow banking. There will also likely be more tax reforms, political reforms in cracking down on corruption, and, we’ll start to see the loosening of the one-child policy.
- Official could move to liberalize interest rates.“Financial liberalization could deliver real benefits, but the process of liberalization can be dangerous,” writes Ting. “If regulations cannot catch up, those new risks could occasionally be disruptive to financial markets and economies. Rising interest rates on the rapidly amassed debt of local governments and corporates likely will increase default risks in 2014. Though we don’t expect a nationwide debt and banking crisis, we believe the chance of bond and trust loan defaults will rise significantly in 2014.”
- There will be more a move to clean up local government and corporate debt.We’ve already seen the latest debt audit showed Chinese local government debt at 17.9 trillion renminbi ($2.8 trillion). Many expect that such a clean-up could weigh on growth.
- A rebound in the U.S. economic growth and the Fed’s taper will also weigh on China. This could lead to a reversal of capital flows and “in this flat world, China’s currency, trades, capital flows, inflation, rates and central banking would be significantly affected.”
Ting expects economic growth to be more stable in 2014. But he expects financial markets to be as volatile as they were in 2013, or even more so, “as accumulated debt risks, financial deepening and too rosy expectations on reforms are set to rattle financial markets once in a while.”
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