Chinese banks lent less money for a second straight month in October, data showed Monday, as the country's banking regulator acknowledged that bad loans have spiked this year.
The lenders gave out 505.2 billion yuan ($81 billion) last month, the People's Bank of China said in a statement, down from 623.2 billion yuan in September and 703.9 billion yuan in August.
The figure was lower than analysts' expectations of 590 billion yuan, according to a median forecast of 11 economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires.
China has been encouraging bank lending to bolster economic growth, which has slowed for seven straight quarters and hit a more than three-year low of 7.4 percent in the third quarter hurt by weak demand overseas and at home.
Policymakers have cut interest rates twice this year and trimmed the amount of cash banks must place in reserve three times since December as they try to pump up growth.
Economic data for October has fuelled optimism that the slowdown has bottomed out, but concerns are also rising over a surge in bad loans in the banking system.
Shang Fulin, chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, told a news conference Sunday that non-performing loans had risen since the start of the year.
He cited "changes in business operations in some sectors", without elaborating, but emphasised that risks are controllable.
"The CBRC will try to urge the commercial banks to improve their risk management," he said on the sidelines of the Communist Party's 18th Congress that is set to anoint new leaders for the next 10 years.
"For the non-performing loans, we will monitor the real time situation to expose and deal with possible risks and potential dangers in a timely manner and we will also ensure that we have enough provisions to cover the risks."
Analysts have said that the weak bank lending figures do not reflect the country's true lending situation, which includes other forms of credit.
A report issued by Fitch Ratings last week argued that broad credit, which includes shadow and offshore sources omitted from the central bank's lending data, was on track to exceed one-third of the national economy this year.
"Rising leverage either will swamp borrowers' ability to repay, or banks' funding and capital needs will fall short of existing resources," Charlene Chu, a Beijing-based analyst with Fitch, warned in the report.