News Column

New lending hits 4-year high

February 16, 2014

Wang Xinyuan

 China's new lending in January hit a four-year high, official data showed over the weekend, indicating a resilient demand for credit and dismissing market concerns over possible tight monetary policy and cooling economy. Chinese banks lent a total of 1.32 trillion yuan ($216 billion) in January, the largest monthly credit since January 2010, up 23 percent from a year earlier, according to the central bank's data released on Saturday, outperforming an average market forecast of 1.1 trillion yuan. The rebound in new credit in January was mainly due to seasonality, as Chinese lenders usually ramp up lending in the beginning of a year, Lu Ting, chief China economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, told the Global Times in a research note on Sunday.New medium-to-long-term corporate loans rebounded to 504.2 billion yuan in January from 30 billion in December, according to Lu's calculation based on the central bank's data. "Even taking seasonality into account, the number is still quite strong, underpinning robust demand for investment, despite recent hard-landing concerns in the market," Lu wrote.China's manufacturing activities slowed down in January to a six-month low as indicated by the official and HSBC PMI readings, sparking market concerns of an unexpectedly sharp cooling economy.The January credit data tells that the PBC's policy stance remains neutral instead of tightening as the market feared before, according to Lu.Considering the large demand for cash and liquidity before the Chinese lunar new year, which fell on January 31, the central bank also injected a net liquidity of 421 billion yuan via open market operations in January. The credit growth will help stabilize the economy, Everbright Securities wrote in a report on Sunday.Total social financing aggregate, a broad measure of liquidity including bank loans, trust loans and bonds, rebounded to 2.58 trillion yuan, almost doubling that of December.Meanwhile, traditional bank deposits decreased by 940.2 billion yuan from 104.38 trillion by the end of December 2013, according to the PBC.The decrease in deposits is partially due to corporate year-end bonus distribution, and as a result of intensified competition from high yield wealth management products including surging Internet financial products, Lian Ping, chief economist at Bank of Communications, told the Global Times. Many commercial banks face increasing competition from Internet financing products led by Internet giant Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent. Tencent's WeChat users reportedly transferred more than 800 million yuan to Licaitong - its first wealth management product - on the first day of its launch on January 22.Alibaba's Yu'ebao, the first online wealth management platform released in June last year, reportedly raised funds of 880 million yuan within six minutes after it launched a new wealth investment product on Friday. The impact of Internet financial products will narrow the profit margin for commercial banks, as it is getting harder and more expensive to attract new deposits to fuel traditional lending, Fan Jianping, chief economist at government think tank State Information Center, told the Global Times Sunday.Money channeled to high yield wealth management products contains higher default risks for investors, and a high interest rate will also weigh on the economy as borrowers will have to pay higher funding costs for money raised by these products. Fan, however, cautions against reading too much into the latest figures as data distortions may exist as a result of China's Spring Festival holiday, and a clearer picture will not surface until the February data is unveiled, he said.

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Source: Global Times

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