Chinese President Xi Jinping may replace People's Bank of China (PBOC) Governor Zhou Xiaochuan as part of a wider personnel reshuffling following internal battles about overhauling the economy, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The top contender to replace the central bank governor is Guo Shuqing, a former banker and securities regulator who is currently governor of the eastern Shandong province, the paper said citing officials with knowledge of the plan.
However, no final decision has been made, it said.
In a statement to The Wall Street Journal, Zhou, who has led the PBOC since 2002, said that he would not be stepping down soon.
"I think the way markets are reading the rumor is that a change of the guard at the People's Bank of China might mean a more aggressively loose monetary policy going forward to help counter-act the growth slowdown," said Chris Konstantinos, director of international portfolio management at Riverfront Investment Group.
"My personal view is that it's a little early to tell. First of all, whether the rumor is true and if it is true, what the rationale is behind it. In China, it's tough to tell whether it's a monetary thing or power consolidation," he said.
The speculation comes amid a spat of weak economic readings that many market watchers believe warrant central bank stimulus to prop up the economy.
Most recently, industrial production growth slowed to 6.9 percent in August from a year earlier, its lowest level since the 2008. Nominal fixed asset investment growth fell to 13.8 percent on year in August from 15.7 percent in July. Meanwhile, consumer prices eased to 2 percent in August, well below Beijing's official target of 3.5 percent.
The data raised fears of an economic hard landing in China, with some speculating that Beijing will fail to meet the 7.5 percent growth target that it set in March. A number of banks have since cut their growth forecasts. Goldman Sachs lowered its third and fourth quarter growth forecasts this week and now sees full year growth of 7.3 percent, down from 7.7 percent last year.