Friday, July 10, 2009

China's Lending Explosion

Is there anything wrong with China's lending spree. The central bank basically "advised" banks to ratchet up their lending, and the banks followed dutifully for the past couple of quarters with amazing results.

First of all, you cannot suddenly find so many attractive "borrowers" to lend aggressively to. Secondly, not many will say no when you offer to lend them money.

To be fair, this strategy pulled the domestic economy from falling further along with the ill effects of a global economy in crisis, but at what price. As I have mentioned before, this has to play itself out, and will not result in a sudden correction in property or stock prices in China. The liquidity rush will soon find its way into higher equity prices in China (hence bullish for the rest of the year for Chinese equity), and some may trickle back into Chinese property mart as well. Brace for high default rates when the music stops, probably after Chinese New Year in 2010.

China’s new lending more than doubled in June from a month earlier, increasing concerns bad loans and asset bubbles will emerge amid a credit boom.

New lending was 1.53 trillion yuan ($224 billion), the central bank said on its Web site today, bringing total lending this year to 7.4 trillion yuan. The calculation for new loans is preliminary, the central bank added.

The government is countering an export collapse by flooding the economy with money to fuel domestic demand. Rapid credit growth poses a risk to the nation’s lenders and a concentration of credit in some industries and businesses may damage the stability of the financial system, the banking regulator said yesterday.

Excess liquidity is fueling speculation and that means asset bubbles and wasteful investment. Already China recently failed to complete a $4.1bn auction of one-year government bonds, which suggested that investors are positioning for higher inflation caused by the credit surge.

Just something more to chew on, in 2005 Ernst & Young published a survey estimating that the bad loans in the Chinese banking system equaled close to $900 billion. Since then there has been enormous speculation in both the stock and real estate market. The average urban residential property prices fell by 15 to 30 per cent over the next two years from their levels at the end of 2008. Of course, by the end of 2008 they had already fallen from there 2007 highs. You cannot have real estate fall that much without having bad loans. Here is the juicy part, according to the prospectus for the Commercial Bank of China, it is illegal in China to foreclose on residential property.So what are bad loans? Bad loans = immediate write downs? No, they are then carried as what??? ... long term assets???
The reality is that no one knows exactly how bad the situation is in any bank. Information has value and is not disclosed unless required by law or for consideration. Since the banks in China are owned by the state, there is no legal requirement.

Something's gotta give ... but let's have a bull run first...

p/s photos: Elanne Kong Yuk Lam

1 comment:

solomon said...

Open umbrella when it rains, shut when it stops. Same goes to lending. I believe the Chinese Central bank had done well, if not a A- also got A.

How is the dog? My son is asking.