(Repeats to wider audience, no change to text)
BEIJING Feb 15 China's banks disbursed the most
loans in any month in four years in January, a surge that
suggests the world's second-biggest economy may not be cooling
as much as some fear.
Chinese banks lent 1.32 trillion yuan ($217.6 billion) worth
of new yuan loans in January, beating a 1.1 trillion yuan
forecast and nearly three times December's level, the People's
Bank of China said in a statement on Saturday on its website.
It is usual for loans to spike in January when banks try to
lend as much as they can to grab market share, but last month's
surge was still the largest since January 2010.
Saturday's figures may assuage those who worry about China's
hazy economic outlook following recent data that showed
conflicting trends. Distortions to the data as a result of
January's Lunar New Year holiday is part of the problem, and
some analysts believe it won't be till April before they get
finally get some clarity on what is happening.
Some economists cautioned against reading too much into the
"The bigger picture is that bank loan growth has been
effectively flat since the middle of 2013," Capital Economics
said in a note, adding that broader credit growth is at its
lowest in nearly one and a half years. "We think that tight
monetary conditions are probably here to stay."
Total social financing, a broad measure of liquidity and
credit in the economy, was 2.58 trillion yuan in January, double
the previous month's figure due to the surge in bank loans.
Compared to a year ago, Capital Economics said growth in
total social financing had eased to 17.4 percent in January, the
lowest in about a year-and-a-half and down from December's 17.8
The broad M2 money supply was up 13.2 percent last month
from a year earlier, in line with a Reuters poll forecast of a
13.2 percent rise.
Outstanding yuan loans were up 14.3 percent from a year
earlier versus forecasts for growth of 13.9 percent.
Bank lending is a centrepiece in China's monetary policy as
banks lend at the government's behest, and are told how much to
lend and when to lend.
January's lending surge aside, China's central bank has
consistently signalled in recent months that it wants to temper
credit growth to slow a rapid rise in debt levels across the
It has focused in particular on keeping short-term interest
rates elevated to force banks to stop lending to speculators or
Analysts polled by Reuters in January said they expect
China's economy to grow 7.4 percent this year, an enviable
performance for a major economy, but still the worst for China
in 14 years. The economy grew 7.7 percent last year.
A series of surveys that showed Chinese factories and
service firms suffered a marked fall in business in January and
had heightened worries about an unexpectedly sharp economic
cooling. But the disappointing trend was countered this week by
a surprisingly strong trade report that showed import growth at
a six-month high, a performance that baffled some analysts.
($1 = 6.0668 Chinese yuan)
(Reporting by Koh Gui Qing; Editing by Jeremy Laurence and Matt