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Did China just announce a new mini-stimulus package?

Zhang Peng | LightRocket | Getty Images

The Chinese government launched a "fresh round of mini-stimulus" to counter growth headwinds, according to a Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BofA-ML) report published Thursday.

The measures aim to support the agricultural sector, boost investment in public facilities and improve environmental protection.

The People's Bank of China (PBOC) has given banks a larger re-lending quota at lower rates to support the farm sector. It granted a 20 billion yuan ($3.26 billion) re-lending quota to its local branches to guide rural financial institutions to step up lending support to the sector, it said on its website late Wednesday.

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Re-lending is a monetary tool used by the central bank to increase financial institutions' liquidity and guide credit flows.

Other measures include a "push for ramping up investment in clean energy and public facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes and fitness centers, and a promise for delivering the target on social housing and more spending on environmental protection," Ting Lu and Sylvia Sheng, economists at BofA-ML wrote.

These steps will help China deliver the "around 7.5 percent" growth target, BofA-ML said, noting that it's comfortable maintaining its gross domestic product (GDP) growth forecast of 7.4 percent for the second half.

A slew of disappointing economic data – from manufacturing to credit growth – over the past month raised concerns that the world's second-largest economy may be headed into a renewed soft patch.

HSBC's preliminary reading of China's manufacturing purchasing managers' index (PMI) for August dipped to 50.3 from July's 18-month high of 51.7, missing forecasts for 51.5.

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"We expect growth to be stabilized again in coming months as the government steps up its stimulus efforts," Lu and Sheng said.

Other economists disagree that the latest measures can be classified as "a mini-stimulus package."

"The measures announced are part of ongoing support for the economy and are not big enough to be a mini-stimulus package," said Dariusz Kowalczyk, senior economist and strategist at Credit Agricole.

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"For starters, it's not the first time the PBOC is expanding its re-lending quota," he noted. In July, the PBOC arranged a 12 billion yuan re-lending quota to boost financial support for small businesses and rural areas.

"Also, the government talking about increasing social spending is nothing new," he said. "Calling this a round of stimulus mini is a bit of an overstatement."