China central bank hints at discontent over recent lending rise
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Large-scale capital inflows have placed upward pressure on Chinese credit growth, China’s central bank has said in its first hint of displeasure at a big rise in lending in recent months.
In an unusual move, the People’s Bank of China published a lengthy question-and-answer statement on Wednesday after three consecutive months of heavy credit issuance by Chinese banks and other financial institutions.
The relatively loose monetary conditions came as a surprise to many investors and analysts after a cash squeeze engineered by the central bank at the end of June had been interpreted as a sign that it wanted to slow the flow of money in China.
Instead, total new financing in China was Rmb4.6tn ($753.7bn) during the third quarter, putting credit on track to rise about 20 per cent this year, a pace seen by many as too quick when real economic growth is closer to 7.5 per cent.
The central bank said it had made progress in steering credit away from industries suffering from overcapacity such as steelmaking, but it said the overall rise in borrowing was a concern.
“Recently, the increase in lending growth has been relatively fast. Especially as our trade surplus has continued to widen and there have been large-scale capital inflows, the expansionary pressure on monetary and credit growth is quite big,” it said.
Chinese foreign exchange reserves jumped $160bn in the third quarter, one of the biggest quarterly increases on record, the result of gaping trading surpluses and ample liquidity in global markets.
But the increase in Chinese credit was not just a result of external factors. Wang Tao, an analyst with UBS, said Beijing had deliberately soft-pedalled on monetary tightening to ensure that it would hit its economic growth target of 7.5 per cent this year.
“In the face of weak growth and weak confidence in the market, the government focused on the need to protect the growth bottom line and de-emphasised the concerns on financial risk and the increase of overall leverage,” she wrote in a note this week.
China will report its third-quarter growth data on Friday. Li Keqiang, the premier, has already said that the economy hit its 7.5 per cent target over the first nine months of the year.
With the property market heating up and indicators from investment to retail sales performing well, some analysts believe the central bank will now return to a somewhat tighter stance. But in its outlook on policy in Thursday’s statement, the People’s Bank of China gave little away, reiterating longstanding wording that it will guide credit to “reasonable, appropriate growth”.
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