China signals more effective fiscal policy
MAINLAND CHINA & HONG KONG
The Chinese government said it would improve the effectiveness of fiscal policy in 2020, while monetary settings remain “prudent”, signalling a fine-tuning of support measures as the world’s second-largest economy slows.
The Communist Party’s annual economic planning meeting declared that the government would maintain economic growth next year within a “reasonable range”, according to a summary of decisions carried by state media. The government and central bank will ensure reasonably ample liquidity, and the report also called for a continued lowering of the overall level of import tariffs.
“The meeting pointed out that the basic trend of China’s economic stability and long-term improvement has not changed,” according to the statement. “Fiscal and monetary policies should work together with policies on consumption, investment, employment, industry, and the regions to channel investment to areas such as advanced manufacturing, improving people’s livelihoods, and gaps in infrastructure.”
As China pursues a trade deal with the US to end the bruising tariff conflict, domestic policymakers are focusing on stability rather than artificially boosting the economy as it transitions to a more modest level of growth. Officials remain wary of boosting monetary stimulus, and are hinting that greater impact from fiscal efforts than was achieved by 2019’s CNY2t (USD284b) round of tax cuts is desired. There was no mention of new tax or fee cuts this year.
A slim majority of economists surveyed by Bloomberg this week (ending 13 December) expect that the fiscal deficit ratio, which is used as the main yardstick for the amount of support to the economy, would be set slightly higher in 2020 at 3% of gross domestic product (GDP) compared with 2019’s 2.8%.
The statement was released after the three-day Central Economic Work Conference finished Thursday (12 December), and did not mention the overall target for GDP growth. That is likely only to be released at a legislative meeting in March, but economists see the target being set at “about 6%”, a formulation that implies continuation of the current growth slowdown. A target at that level will also keep the government’s goal of doubling the size of the economy and income over this decade within reach. – Bloomberg News.
Meanwhile, the Shanghai Composite Index ended 0.30% lower at 2,915.70 and the Hang Seng Index advanced 1.31% to 26,994.14 on Thursday.
REST OF ASIA
Bangkok Bank Pcl snapped up a controlling stake in Indonesia’s PT Bank Permata for about USD2.7b in the first major purchase of an overseas lender by a Thai bank.
The purchase of a near 90% holding from Standard Chartered Plc and a local partner fits with Bangkok Bank’s strategy of transforming into a regional lender with a larger presence in Southeast Asian markets, according to a filing. Indonesia is a “highly attractive and fast growing market”, it said.
Standard Chartered’s disposal of its stake, which will net about USD500m, comes as no surprise after the bank signalled in February that Permata is no longer core. The funds may be used to extend the Emerging Markets lender’s share repurchase programme, which has already returned USD1b. Its shares climbed more than 2% in London.
The deal for Bangkok Bank is a shift in tactics for Thailand’s second-largest bank by assets, which has been viewed as conservative. The prospect of the purchase rattled investors, sparking a 4.4% slide in Bangkok Bank’s stock by the close Thursday (12 December) to the lowest level since 2016.
The acquisition at IDR1,498 per share implies a valuation of 1.77 times book value, and will be financed via a combination of internal resources and routine funding, Bangkok Bank said, adding it does not expect to raise equity for the transaction.
It expects to complete the deal in 2020 subject to approvals and anticipates conducting a tender offer for the remaining stake in the Indonesian lender. – Bloomberg News.
Shares in Sydney ticked up on Friday (13 December) morning with the S&P/ASX 200 Index up 0.37% to 6,733.90. The benchmark slid 0.65% to 6,708.53 on Thursday.
South Korea’s Kospi Index advanced 1.09% to 2,160.60 in early Friday trading after finishing 1.51% higher at 2,137.35 the previous session.
The Taiwan Stock Exchange Weighted Index (Taiex) gained 1.16% to 11,836.42 on Thursday.
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