China’s bank lending rebounded strongly in May following a sharp fall in April, the central bank said Wednesday, as borrowers continued to take advantage of loosened lending standards put in place by Beijing in hopes of stimulating slowing economic growth.
New loans extended by banks jumped to 985.5 billion yuan ($149.3 billion) last month, up from 555.6 billion yuan in April, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) said.
The figure, which stood at 1.37 trillion yuan in March before slumping in April, beat a median forecast of 750 billion yuan in a survey by Bloomberg News.
Easy credit has been an important policy tool as Beijing works to avoid a hard landing for its slowing economy, but many analysts are concerned the country is facing a hangover from its debt-binge.
There is “no sign at all of credit being reined in,” Michael Every, head of financial markets research at Rabobank Group in Hong Kong, told Bloomberg News in response to the results.
“Naturally it’s very short-term positive, much more worrying longer term.”
The rebound was likely fuelled by mortgage loans, Nomura analyst Yang Zhao said in a note.
“We continue to believe that the debt-fuelled rebound in investment growth will be short-lived and maintain our forecast for GDP growth to slow,” he wrote.
In a separate statement, the PBoC said that total social financing — an alternative measure of credit in the real economy — fell for a second month to 659.9 billion yuan in May from 751.0 billion yuan in April.
Analysts said the fall is caused by a renewed crackdown on shadow banking, which resulted in a sharp contraction in banks’ bill financing.
“The overall credit figure is not bad, but the social financing is way too low, which will put more pressure on economic growth in the future,” Liu Dongliang, a senior analyst at China Merchants Bank in Shenzhen, said in a research note.
Lending obligations in China have increased dramatically following several rounds of credit loosening intended to stimulate waning growth.
The country’s economy grew 6.9 percent last year, the slowest rate in a quarter century, and weakening economic figures have led many to question whether Beijing can meet its goal of achieving 6.5 to 7 percent growth for the second quarter of this year.
Wednesday’s announcement comes after an official from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned Beijing of the risks of credit binges.
“Addressing the corporate debt problem is imperative to avoid serious problems down the road,”said David Lipton, a Deputy Managing Director at the organisation, speaking Tuesday in Beijing.
Recent policy support means that the near-term growth outlook for the country is buoyant, he said, but warned that potential pitfalls lay ahead, making the longer term health of the economy “uncertain”.