Recent reports suggest that the People's Bank of China (PBOC) may lift the upper limit of the floating range for deposit interest rates to 1.2 times the benchmark rates. While it’s tough to discern whether or not the Shanghai Composite Index was up on this today, as the rumors have apparently been circulating, it’s interesting to see the PBOC continue with its financial system reform agenda. Recall that a full liberalization of deposit rates is something that would materially erode the asset quality and the Net Interest Margin/profitability of the Chinese banking system. Roughly 25% of the Big 5 banks’ portfolios are in bonds that are marked-to-model yielding at or below the benchmark one year deposit rate.
While a move from 110% to 120% of the benchmark isn’t necessarily a game changer, it does raise serious questions about what Chinese banks plan to do when D-Day finally comes. Another major recapitalization of the banks, which would be the third time in the last 10 years, is not out of the question. The prospect of major secondary issuance could potentially hang over the Shanghai Composite Index for the foreseeable future, creating a headwind for the Chinese stock market.