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Thursday, October 31, 2019, 21:40
HSBC, StanChart cut Hong Kong prime rates
By Bloomberg
Thursday, October 31, 2019, 21:40 By Bloomberg

HSBC Holdings Plc lowered its Hong Kong prime lending rate for the first time in 11 years, underscoring the economic challenges facing the financial hub.

HSBC cut its best lending rate by 12.5 basis points to 5% in Hong Kong, while Standard Chartered also reduced its best lending rate by 12.5 basis points to 5.25%

The London-based bank cut its best lending rate by 12.5 basis points to 5 percent in Hong Kong. 

Standard Chartered Plc, another major lender in the city, soon followed HSBC’s announcement, reducing its best lending rate by 12.5 basis points to 5.25 percent.

Hong Kong’s economy contracted sharply in the third quarter as it entered a recession, exceeding economists’ worst estimates of the damage from nearly five months of protests.

Third-quarter gross domestic product retreated 3.2 percent from the previous three months, after a 0.4 percent contraction in the second quarter. That’s the worst slump since 2009, in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. Two consecutive periods of negative growth mean Hong Kong has fallen into a technical recession.

READ MORE: HK falls into first recession in 10 years

HSBC’s cut, to take effect Nov 1, will likely help the Hong Kong economy and companies, George Leung, the bank’s Asia-Pacific adviser, said at a briefing. There’s not much more room for banks in the city to cut further, and the reduction will probably be the last this year, he said.

The move comes after the Hong Kong Monetary Authority cut its benchmark interest rate Thursday, in line with the city’s currency peg to the dollar following the US Federal Reserve’s reduction in borrowing costs. The HKMA lowered its base rate to 2.00 percent from 2.25 percent, hours after the Fed’s quarter-point cut, according to the institution’s page on Bloomberg.

READ MORE: Hong Kong cuts base rate after Fed as city faces recession

“Looking ahead, we expect there’s still downward pressure on the US rate,” Leung said. “This is likely to make the operating environment for banks like HSBC more challenging in the future, but we hope that it will bring some relief to our customers and maybe a little bit of sunshine to the gloomy economic outlook.”

The Hong Kong government has laid out policy support including boosting loans to small businesses and cutting banks’ capital buffers to mitigate an economic downturn through the months-long unrest. It also announced plans this month to help first-time homebuyers break into the world’s least-affordable property market.

“It is hard to say whether the Hong Kong interbank rates may follow the US rate,” HKMA Chief Executive Eddie Yue had said at a briefing earlier Thursday. “However, the US rate cut does reflect the downward pressure on the global economy, to which Hong Kong is not immune.”

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