New bank lending in China fell more than expected in February from a record in January, but the drop was likely due to seasonal factors as policymakers stepped up support for the economy jolted by a coronavirus outbreak. Chinese banks extended 905.7 billion yuan (US$130 billion) in new yuan loans in February, down from a record 3.34 trillion yuan (US$480 billion) in January and missing analyst expectations, according to data released by the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) on Wednesday. Analysts polled by Reuters had predicted new yuan loans would fall to 1.10 trillion yuan (US$158 billion) in February. The new loans were still higher than 885.8 billion yuan (US$127 billion) a year earlier. A pullback in lending in February was widely expected as Chinese banks tend to front-load loans at the beginning of the year to get higher-quality customers and win market share. A drop in borrowing by consumers due to fewer property and car sales was offset by a pickup in loans to companies, in large part thanks to official measures such as the PBOC’s special coronavirus relending facility Julian Evans-Pritchard But the sharper-than-expected fall in new loans, especially household loans, likely reflects the impact of the coronavirus outbreak which saw many banks and companies shut for most of February due to strict antivirus measures while the property market also ground to a halt. Banks saw a net decline of 413.3 billion yuan (US$59 billion) in household loans in February compared with a rise of 634.1 billion yuan in January, while corporate loans dropped to 1.13 trillion yuan (US$163 billion) from 2.86 trillion yuan. But despite the large-scale quarantine measures, outstanding yuan loans grew 12.1 per cent from a year earlier – the same rate of growth as in January and in line with expectations. “A drop in borrowing by consumers due to fewer property and car sales was offset by a pickup in loans to companies, in large part thanks to official measures such as the PBOC’s special coronavirus relending facility,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China economist at Capital Economics. Chinese regulators have been trying to boost bank lending and lower financing costs for over a year, especially for smaller and private companies which generate a sizeable share of the country’s economic growth and jobs. The coronavirus that emerged late last year in the central city of Wuhan has infected more than 80,000 people and claimed around 3,200 lives in China. Restrictions on movement and factory closures aimed at stopping the epidemic likely halved China’s economic growth in the first quarter compared with the previous three months, raising expectations for more interest rate cuts, the latest Reuters poll found. The central bank has rolled out a raft of stimulus steps to keep borrowing costs down to cushion the blow on the economy. Broad M2 money supply in February grew 8.8 per cent from a year earlier, central bank data showed on Wednesday, above estimates of 8.5 per cent forecast in the Reuters poll. It rose 8.4 per cent in January. Growth of outstanding total social financing (TSF), a broad measure of credit and liquidity in the economy, was 10.7 per cent in February, unchanged from January. TSF includes off-balance sheet forms of financing that exist outside the conventional bank lending system, such as initial public offerings, loans from trust companies and bond sales. Purchase the China AI Report 2020 brought to you by SCMP Research and enjoy a 20% discount (original price US$400). This 60-page all new intelligence report gives you first-hand insights and analysis into the latest industry developments and intelligence about China AI. Get exclusive access to our webinars for continuous learning, and interact with China AI executives in live Q&A. Offer valid until 31 March 2020.