July 18, 2019 / 6:11 AM / a month ago

China's debt tops 300% of GDP, now 15% of global total: IIF

FILE PHOTO: A man rides an electric motorcycle carrying water past Chow Tai Fook Financial Center in Tianjin's Binhai new district, China May 16, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

(Reuters) - A key gauge of China’s debt has topped 300% of gross domestic product, according to the Institute of International Finance (IIF), as Beijing steps up support for the cooling economy while trying to contain financial risks.

China’s total corporate, household and government debt rose to 303% of GDP in the first quarter of 2019, from 297% in the same period a year earlier, the IIF said in a report this week which highlighted rising debt levels worldwide.

The IIF is a private global financial industry association, based in Washington.

“While authorities’ efforts to curb shadow bank lending (particularly to smaller companies) have prompted a cutback in non-financial corporate debt, net borrowing in other sectors has brought China’s total debt to over $40 trillion - some 15% of all global debt,” the report said.

“Of note, onshore bond issuance suggests a big pickup in borrowing by local governments and banks this year.”

China’s economic growth slowed to 6.2% in the second quarter, its weakest pace in at least 27 years, as demand at home and abroad faltered in the face of mounting U.S. trade pressure.

To revive investment and protect jobs, Beijing has been encouraging banks to lend more, particularly to struggling smaller firms. It has also unveiled billions of dollars in tax cuts and infrastructure spending.

In the first half of this year, local governments’ total net bond issuance reached 2.1765 trillion yuan ($316.5 billion), the finance ministry said on Tuesday.

Chinese officials have said repeatedly said debt risks are manageable overall.

Reporting by Asia Economics and Markets Desk; Editing by Richard Borsuk

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