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China banks' 2014 new yuan lending hits record high

Xinhua, January 15, 2015 Adjust font size:

China's new yuan-denominated lending in 2014 hit a record high of 9.78 trillion yuan (1.58 trillion U.S. dollars), up 890 billion yuan from one year earlier, latest data showed on Thursday.

In December, Chinese banks' new lending reached 697.3 billion yuan, up 214.9 billion yuan from the same month of 2013, said the People's Bank of China (PBOC), the central bank.

M2, a broad measure of money supply that covers cash in circulation and all deposits, increased 12.2 percent year on year to 122.84 trillion yuan at the end of December, according to the PBOC.

The narrow measure of money supply (M1), which covers cash in circulation plus demand deposits, rose 3.2 percent year on year to 34.81 trillion yuan at the end of December.

Total social financing in 2014 also rose to a record high, standing at 16.46 trillion yuan, 859.8 billion yuan less than 2013, according to data released by the central bank.

Yuan-denominated deposits at China's banks increased by 9.48 trillion yuan in 2014, compared to 12.56 trillion yuan for 2013.

By the end of December of 2014, China's foreign exchange reserves totaled at 3.84 trillion U.S. dollars.

China's credit structure has been improving and the liquidity was relatively abundant in 2014, said Sheng Songcheng, director of the central bank's surveys and statistics department.

The record-high new lending and social financing are an indication that the real economy has been relatively stable and active, although with downward pressure, Sheng added.

The new lending data has been widely watched as the market is speculating whether and when the central bank might unveil more easing policies to support the lukewarm economy.

In the third quarter of the year, China's economy grew at a pace not seen since the depths of the global financial crisis.

The annual gross domestic product (GDP) statistics is scheduled to be released by the National Bureau of Statistics next Tuesday. It is very likely to register its weakest annual growth in more than 10 years.

The PBOC cut benchmark interest rates on Nov. 22 for the first time in more than two years to step up support for the economy, fanning speculation about further moves, including reserve requirement ratio (RRR) cuts.

Bob Liu, an analyst at the China International Capital Corp (CICC), deemed interest rates in the real economy as "still high," with the monthly bill discount rate, a gauge of financing costs in the real economy, staying at a high level in January.

Real interest rates have risen by more than nominal interest rates considering the increased risk of deflation, said Liu.

On the positive side, the government bond yield has fallen and flattened, which may indicate further easing of monetary policy, Liu said, expecting the PBOC's monetary policy focus to remain on reducing the financing costs in the real economy.

"We maintain our forecast of one interest rate cut and four RRR cuts in 2015, which are more likely to happen in the first half of 2015," Liu said.

Echoing Liu, chief China economist with Bank of America Merrill Lynch Lu Ting expected the country's monetary policy to remain supportive in coming months, and monetary easing will be continued in 2015.

With the end of the one-way appreciation of yuan, the private sector tends to keep a larger share of their foreign exchange proceeds, depriving the PBOC the traditional source of base money supply and likely forcing the PBOC to cut RRR several times in 2015, Lu said.

"With a lower inflation, we believe the PBOC still has the room to cut benchmark deposit rate by 25 basis points and lending rates by 40 basis points each in 2015," Lu said in a research note to media.

China's central bank remained silent about whether more easing measures will come, saying on Friday that it will "continue with its prudent monetary policies in 2015 with better coordination of tight and loose monetary measures and proper fine-tuning."

The central bank will adapt to China's economic "new normal" of slower growth but higher quality and highlight industrial transformation and restructuring, said the PBOC at a meeting on its work in 2015.