The mainland banking regulator yesterday denied media reports that its vice-chairman Cai Esheng had said the government might extend at least 8 trillion yuan (HK$9.08 trillion) of new loans this year. The denial followed reports in state-owned China Securities Journal and Shanghai Securities News as saying that Mr Cai gave that estimate in a forum on Saturday. That amount would represent a 57 per cent surge from last year. In a mobile text message sent to the South China Morning Post, the China Banking Regulatory Commission said Mr Cai did not make such comments. An official source said the regulator had asked its officials not to comment on macroeconomic matters because lending policy was not under the commission's supervision. The officials were told to comment only on bank-specific issues from industry perspectives. A policy rift between the commission and central bank officials has surfaced in the past few weeks. While the People's Bank of China is committed to lifting growth through measures including credit expansion, the CBRC is more concerned about rising bad loans. Banks engaged in chasing profits were unlikely to slow lending even after the regulator asked them to control risks, Mr Cai was quoted by the newspapers as saying. The mainland authorities set a new loan target at 5 trillion yuan for the entire year, but economists said the final tally could be 7 trillion yuan to 8 trillion yuan, as the target was almost reached in the first quarter. Banks lent 4.58 trillion yuan in the quarter, more than threefold a year earlier, in response to PBOC's call for increased lending to stimulate the economy. JP Morgan estimated new loans this month at 600 billion yuan, higher than the 463.9 billion yuan a year ago. 'Given the strong loan growth in the first quarter, loan growth in the remainder of this year is expected to slow substantially. This slowdown is normal, as commercial banks' front-loading incentive gradually fades,' the US bank said in a report. China Construction Bank Corp said new loans totalled 520 billion yuan, of which 194.7 billion yuan went to 421 projects under the nation's 4 trillion yuan stimulus package and 62.5 billion yuan to the 10 industries marked for revitalisation. Peng Wensheng, an economist at Barclays Capital Research, said: 'The authorities are unlikely to take any significant cooling measures on bank lending before seeing firm signs of achieving this year's 8 per cent growth target.' Top officials have said the government would keep loose monetary policy in place after the nation reported 6.1 per cent economic growth in the first quarter, the slowest rate since 1992.