,SHANGHAI - China's benchmark lending rate is expected to stay steady for the 11th straight month at its March fixing on Monday, a Reuters survey showed, as authorities show no rush to tighten policy even as the economy builds on a post-pandemic recovery. Twenty-nine traders and analysts, or 97% of all 30 participants, in a snap Reuters poll conducted this week predicted no change in either the one-year Loan Prime Rate (LPR) or the five-year tenor. The lone respondent expected an increase of a marginal 5 basis points to both tenors this month. The one-year LPR was last at 3.85%, and the five-year rate stood at 4.65%. While a slew of recent data showed that the economic recovery has continued apace, authorities appear keen to ensure the rebound is solidified across all sectors before moving to tighten policy. The widespread expectations for a steady LPR fixing come as the central bank kept the interest rate on the medium-term loans it grants to some financial institutions this week unchanged for an 11th straight month. The medium-term lending facility (MLF), one of the People's Bank of China's (PBOC) main tools in managing longer-term liquidity in the banking system, serves as a guide for the LPR. At the annual gathering of the parliament earlier this month, China set a modest annual economic growth target, at above 6%, and pledged to create more jobs in cities than last year, as the world's second-biggest economy planned a careful course out of a year disrupted by COVID-19. The target was much lower than markets had expected, but Premier Li Keqiang said policies would not be dramatically loosened to chase higher growth. He also warned against any "sharp turn" in tightening policy. "As Beijing continues to see headwinds, we expect them to take a slow road to tapering easing," Erin Xin, economist for Greater China at HSBC, said in a note earlier this month. Xin expected the LPR would stay unchanged this year. However, Guo Shuqing, head of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, told a news conference that he expected lending rates would rise this year in tandem with higher market interest rates. Marco Sun, chief financial markets analyst at MUFG Bank in Shanghai, concurred, saying as the broad economy continued to recover, monetary policy normalisation would gradually kick in this year. He expects a 10 bp rise in the one-year MLF rate and a 15 bp hike in one-year LPR in Q3 this year. REUTERS
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