BYLINE: Jonathan Evans NEW YORK, United States — China has asked its central bank to increase its 2020 annual bonus by $10bn to a maximum of $20 billion, a move the central bank said it would consider if its interest rate rises in the wake of a sharp drop in oil prices.
The move came as China’s central bank signaled its intention to buy $20-billion worth of U.S. Treasury bonds as it prepares to issue another stimulus package to stimulate the economy and boost borrowing costs.
It also raised the prospect that the central banker would also announce more stimulus measures, as it seeks to offset the shock from falling oil prices and the yuan devaluation.
“The (2020) bonus is at a very sensitive time for the Chinese economy,” said Zhang Zhenmin, chief China economist at Capital Economics in Hong Kong.
“It’s not like it’s a one-time deal.”
China is the world’s second-biggest economy, with an annual output of nearly $1 trillion.
Its economy is expected to shrink by 1.6 percent in the year to March 2019, the weakest since 2012, according to the country’s official data.
Its currency has lost nearly 20 percent of its value against the dollar over the past year, and it has also seen the biggest drop in corporate profits since at least the mid-1990s.
China is a major supplier of oil and other commodities, including metals, machinery and electronics, and its currency has suffered sharply.
The yuan has appreciated only about 7 percent against the U.K. dollar since the start of the year, according a Reuters survey of economists.
The announcement was made by China’s National People’s Congress on Monday and said it was the central’s first attempt at raising its 2020-21 bonus, the highest in its history.
It did not say when the bonus might be raised.
The central bank is seeking to raise the base salary of its chief economist, a senior official said, as well as the number of senior economists to fill key positions, to offset a sharp fall in the yuan’s value.
The increase would mean that the base rate, or the rate at which the yuan is exchanged for foreign currency, would go up to 1.7 percent from the current level of 1.3 percent.
The top rate of the base, which has held steady since the year 2000, would also be raised to 6 percent from 5.5 percent.
Inflation is expected at 6.7 to 7 percent in 2019, rising to 7.5 to 7, and reaching 10.5-10.8 percent in 2020, according the China-focused China Securities Journal.
The bonus increase comes after the centralbank’s Monetary Authority of Singapore last week lowered its 2019 bonus forecast to $5.2 billion.
The IMF expects the country to receive just $4.4 billion in 2019 and 2018, and only $3.6 billion in 2017 and 2016.
The 2018 bonus of $5bn was cut to $4bn after a fall in crude oil prices that pushed the cost of oil more than 30 percent.
“It’s a very difficult time for China,” said Jonathan Evans, an economist at London-based Capital Economics.
“The country’s economy is on a downward path, and the central wants to make sure it doesn’t lose any more of the momentum that it has built up.”
But the big question is how much are they going to be willing to do.
“The central also said it could issue another two-year stimulus package at its June 7-9 meeting, a decision likely to boost its benchmark interest rate by 0.25 percentage points to 1 percent.
The central is the only country that has the power to print money, so the interest rate could be raised in response to a rise in borrowing costs or other factors.
China’s central has been tightening policy to support its economy in recent months.
It increased the countrys reserve requirement in January and cut the amount of money the central can lend to banks to shore up the economy, an effort aimed at preventing a banking crisis.
The policy was designed to curb the risks that the economy could overheat if it could not absorb the stimulus.
China also said last month it was considering a $2-trillion stimulus package, which could help boost the economy by as much as 1 percent, to shore it up.
The latest announcement on Monday came as the IMF said it is expecting the world economy to shrink 2.4 percent in 2018, the biggest decline since 2013, and shrink by 3.3 percentage points by 2019.
The IMF’s world economic outlook expects global growth to expand by 1 percent in 2021 and 2.6% in 2022.
The agency said the global economy was growing about 1 percent a year, which was slightly better than the IMF’s expectations.
The countrys GDP growth would be revised down to 1 percentage point, from the IMF projections.
The global outlook is also downgraded to negative, from stable, due to uncertainty about the economic outlook.