February 3, 2017 / 8:30 AM / 10 months ago

RPT-Credit squeeze curbs Kenya's private sector growth - PMI

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LONDON, Feb 3 (Reuters) - NAIROBI, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Activity in Kenya’s private sector increased modestly in January as banks curtailed new lending to firms in the wake of an interest rate cap imposed last September, a survey showed on Friday.

The Markit Stanbic Bank Kenya Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) fell to 52.0 percent in January from 54.1 in the previous month, staying above the 50.0 line that divides growth from contraction.

“Since the legislation to cap interest rates came into effect ...we can now see signs of distress within the private sector as ...(survey respondents) lament about cash shortages,” said Jibran Qureishi, regional economist for East Africa at Stanbic Bank.

The government capped the lending rate for commercial banks at 400 basis points above the central bank rate, a measure economists said at the time risked hurting economic growth by discouraging loans to smaller borrowers deemed more risky.

“A further slowdown in private sector credit growth and poor weather conditions will most likely lead to a downward trend in the PMI over the coming quarter,” Qureishi said.

Private sector credit growth started falling at the end of 2015 after the central bank toughened supervision. It was worsened last April when mid-sized lender Chase went into receivership.

The central bank said this week the drop in credit growth had bottomed out, with the year-on-year growth standing at 4.3 percent last December, close to the level of the previous two months.

The survey found new orders for firms rose at a slower pace, while costs hit an eight month high.

* Detailed PMI data are only available under licence from Markit and customers need to apply to Markit for a licence. To subscribe to the full data, click on the link below: www.markit.com/Contact-Us

* For further information, please phone Markit on +44 20 7260 2454 or email economics@markit.com (Reporting by Duncan Miriri; editing by John Stonestreet) (Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

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