What inflation fight? China's not even trying

China was supposed to restrain lending last year, but the numbers show huge loan blowouts.

By Jim J. Jubak Jan 14, 2011 3:04PM
Jim JubakNothing in these numbers to suggest that inflation in China is headed anywhere but higher. Or that China’s government has a handle on the country’s runaway money-supply growth.

Chinese banks, as forecast, burst through the 2010 quota of 7.5 trillion yuan set by Beijing for new bank lending. For the year, new bank loans hit 7.95 trillion, thanks to a surge of new lending in December. With economists expecting a quota-busting 300 billion yuan in new lending, Chinese banks actually recorded 481 billion yuan in new loans for the month, overshooting their target by 60%.

And that was a huge 101 billion yuan more in new loans than in December 2009.  

Last year was supposed to be the year China restored discipline to bank lending after a huge loan blowout in 2009. That year, China’s banks lent 9.6 trillion yuan, well above the 5 trillion annual rate for new loans in preceding years.

The quota-busting new loan level in 2010 kept China’s money supply not only growing at an excessively rapid rate but also actually accelerating. At the end of 2010, M2, the broadest measure of money supply, grew at a 19.7% rate. That was 0.2 percentage points higher than in November. The government’s target for 2010 had been an already inflationary 17%. (The rule of thumb is that any growth rate in the money supply above the growth rate for the economy adds to inflation. China’s 2010 growth rate is likely to finish at 10% to 11%.)

None of this is good news for those hoping that the government 1) really intends to fight inflation before it gets totally out of control, or 2) can engineer a soft landing that cuts the inflation rate without stomping out economic growth.

Inflation hit an annual rate of 5.1% in November. And while the details of the year-to-year comparisons make it likely that inflation will retreat in early 2011, the loan growth and money supply numbers almost guarantee that inflation will move higher from here later in 2011.

At the time of this writing, Jim Jubak didn't own shares of any companies mentioned in this post in personal portfolios. The mutual fund he manages, Jubak Global Equity Fund (JUBAX), may or may not own positions in any stock mentioned. For a full list of the stocks in the fund as of the end of the most recent quarter, see the fund's portfolio here. 

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