China cbank says virus may disrupt economy

China's central bank has said the economy could be disrupted in the first quarter due to the coronavirus outbreak, but it is expected to recover once the virus is brought under control.

The People's Bank of China is closely watching the impact of the outbreak on the economy, and is preparing policy reserves to offset the pressure, Vice Governor Pan Gongsheng told a news briefing on Friday.

Analysts believe China's first-quarter economic growth could slow sharply by 2.0 percentage points or more from the 6 per cent recorded in the last quarter, but could rebound sharply if the outbreak peaks soon.

Widespread travel and public health restrictions are taking a increasing toll on tourism, restaurants and other parts of the services sector, while many factories have suspended operations until next week or longer.

The PBOC will maintain ample liquidity and deepen interest rate reforms, Pan said.

It pumped large amounts of cash into the financial system on Monday to shore up confidence and cut some key money market interest rates.

The death toll from the epidemic in mainland China reached 636 as of the end of Thursday, up by 73 from the previous day. There were 3,143 new confirmed infections, bringing the total so far to 31,161.

China will also implement cuts in taxes and fees, Vice Finance Ministry Weiping said at the briefing.

China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission Vice Chairman Zhou Liang said he expects banks' non-performing loan ratios to rise somewhat amid the outbreak but said China has ample resources to deal with any rise in bad loans.

Austrlaian Associated PressBack to Breaking News

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