China banks ramp up lending in January

Chinese banks more than doubled their lending in January from December, official data showed Friday, as the government seeks to boost economic growth after it fell to a 13-year low last year.

Chinese banks granted 1.07 trillion yuan ($171.5 billion) worth of new loans last month, compared with 454.3 billion yuan in December, the People's Bank of China said in a statement.

The figure beat market expectations for 1.0 trillion yuan, according to a median forecast of 16 economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires.

Total social financing, a broader measure of credit in the economy, jumped to 2.54 trillion yuan last month from 1.63 trillion yuan in December, the central bank said.

Lu Ting, a Hong Kong-based economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said strong credit growth would support the economy, which grew 7.8 percent last year, but could prompt regulators to tighten controls over lending due to inflation fears.

"We may see some unwinding of previous credit easing in the second half on concerns of overheating, rising inflation and insufficient regulations on shadow banking," he said in a research note.

Policymakers cut interest rates twice last year and have trimmed the amount of cash banks must place in reserve three times since December 2011 to encourage lending and pump up growth.

China's inflation slowed to 2.0 percent in January, separate data showed Friday, easing from a seven-month peak of 2.5 percent in December, but analysts expect a spike this month as people spend more during Chinese New Year holiday.