China's central bank is prepared to take its strongest action since 2012 to loosen monetary policy if economic growth slows further, by cutting the amount of cash that banks must keep as reserves, sources involved in internal policy discussions say.
A cut would be triggered if growth slips below 7.5 percent and towards 7.0 percent, they said, and would come on top of money market operations and currency intervention via state banks that traders say has already loosened monetary conditions.
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Apart from supporting a stumbling economy, the stronger action of cutting bank reserves would provide a cushion against any shocks from financial reforms that the central bank is widely expected to push through this year, including a widening of the yuan's trading band to give the currency more room to rise or fall each day and allowing banks more room to set deposit rates.
"The economy faces big downward pressure," said a senior economist with the State Information Centre, a top think-tank affiliated to the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's top economic planning agency.