China bank lending surges in January

China bank lending surges in January

Shanghai (AFP) - China's bank lending surged in January from December, the central bank said, but analysts attributed the rise to seasonal factors.

Loans by Chinese banks reached around 1.3 trillion yuan ($216 billion) in January, up 246.9 billion yuan from the same month a year ago, the People's Bank of China said in a statement late Saturday.

In December, banks granted just 482.5 billion yuan in new loans, previous figures showed.

The January lending figure beat the 1.1 trillion yuan median forecast by 11 economists polled by Dow Jones Newswires.

Social financing, a broader measure of credit in the economy than lending alone, rose 39.9 billion yuan year-on-year to 2.6 trillion yuan in January, the central bank said.

But analysts said Chinese banks tend to lend more at the beginning of the year after being granted their annual lending quotas, and they expect the government to keep a grip on credit due to worries over financial risk.

"This is a common occurrence at the beginning of the year and we do not believe it reflects any shift in policy," research firm Capital Economics said.

"On the contrary, with policymakers concerned about credit risks, we think that tight monetary conditions are probably here to stay and that this will continue to weigh on credit growth," it said in a report.

China's central bank pumped funds into the money market last month to ease a liquidity squeeze that rattled financial markets before the Chinese New Year holiday.

Demand for funds traditionally increases before the week-long holiday, which began on January 31 this year, as companies pay salaries, year-end bonuses and other obligations while individuals withdraw cash for gifts and shopping.

But the government worries a credit binge could cause bad debts to rise and expose the financial system to greater risk.