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POLITICAL ECONOMY
China banks scale back lending in April: govt
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) May 10, 2013


Hong Kong sees modest GDP growth of 2.8%
Hong Kong, China (AFP) May 10, 2013 - Hong Kong's economy saw modest year-on-year growth in the first quarter, with strong demand from mainland China offsetting a weak environment in the West, officials said Friday.

Gross domestic product grew by 2.8 percent in the first three months of 2013, compared to the same period last year, a government statement said.

Hong Kong registered the same growth rate in the previous quarter.

Exports grew by 1.8 percent over the preceding quarter on a seasonally adjusted basis, due to strong growth from mainland Chinese and other Asian markets. But exports to the United States, European Union and Japan fell.

Government economist Helen Chan told reporters that China and Asia "provided a cushion" that helped Hong Kong's economy -- which is driven by trade and financial services -- overcome weaker demand in the West.

"In view of the continued sluggishness in demand in the advanced economies, which would continue to put a drag on economic activity in Asia, Hong Kong's trade performance is likely to see some fluctuations," the statement said.

"Nonetheless, the sustained solid growth of the mainland economy should continue to lend some support to intra-regional trade going forward, to the benefit of Hong Kong," it said.

Domestic spending grew by 7.0 percent year-on-year in the first quarter, and the unemployment rate was steady at 3.5 percent for the three months.

Underlying consumer price inflation was stable at 3.8 percent.

Chinese banks lent less in April than March, official data showed Friday, after other recent indicators suggested a rebound in the world's number two economy was flagging.

Banks extended a total of 792.9 billion yuan ($129 billion) in new loans last month, down from 1.06 trillion yuan in March, according to the central People's Bank of China.

Total social financing, a broader measure of credit, totalled 1.75 trillion yuan in April, it said in a statement, falling from 2.54 trillion yuan the previous month.

But analysts said the April lending figures were better than expected and it was premature to interpret the fall as credit tightening because monthly figures tend to be volatile and affected by seasonal factors.

Authorities were likely to keep monetary policy relatively loose to boost economic growth, which has lost momentum in recent months, they said.

China grew at its slowest pace in 13 years in 2012, with gross domestic product expanding 7.8 percent in the face of weakness at home and in key overseas markets.

Economic growth rebounded to 7.9 percent in the final quarter of 2012, raising hopes for a recovery, but in the first three months of this year growth slowed to 7.7 percent.

The official purchasing managers' index (PMI), a widely watched indicator of the health of the Chinese economy, slowed to 50.6 in April from 50.9 in March.

Separately, industrial output -- which is crucial to job creation -- slowed in the first quarter to 9.5 percent, from 10 percent in October-December.

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