Pragmatic Capitalism

Capital for Living a More Practical Life

Chart of the Day: the Growth of China’s Shadow Banking System

By Marc Chandler, Global Head of Currency Strategy, Brown Brothers Harriman

This Great Graphic was posted on the Financial Times’ new news delivery service called fastFT.  It in turn picked it up from BofA Merrill Lynch, who drew on data from the China’s central bank.

The orange-ish line are the yuan loans made by China’s banks. The blue line a broader measure. It depicts what China officials call “social financing”, which, in addition to bank loans, it includes the fund raising of other financial and non-financial firms, as well as households. The measure was introduced by the PBOC in 2011, so the economists that put the chart together must of projected the social financing prior for the earlier period.

Chinese officials devised this tool to help it monitor the financial system evolved away from state-centric lending. This broad measure of credit activity. It is the total funds in the real economy generated by the financial system.

The gap between to two lines is the growing role of non-bank actors in the financial system. This has been dubbed “shadow banking”. It is a nice moniker, but it is not very telling. It is simply the non-bank part of the financial system, which itself may be a function of the increasing complexity of the system. It is the dis-intermediation of banks.

Chinese officials do not have as much direct control over the shadow banking sector as they do the banking sector proper. Officials were able to slow bank lending, as they desired. However, credit creation in the shadow banking system was unchecked. The liquidity squeeze that has seen rates rise sharply in China, and while they might not be rising further, remain at elevated levels, is partly meant or tolerated to rein in the non-banking part of the financial system.

The falsified exports to conceal capital flows and practices around wealth management products were different, but similar ways to game and circumvent the system. Officials, in part, lost some control. The sale-and-buy-back scheme, that was banned last month, was one of the ways in which smaller financial institutions dealt with the inherent maturity mismatch in wealth management products that were attractive offered higher interest rates than deposits.

Around 85% of the wealth management products mature 6 months or less. To get a higher yield the proceeds were invested in bonds. This is the maturity mismatch and the sale-and-buy-back scheme that was used to manage this is no longer available. Part of the increase interest rates in China may reflect the sales of those bonds in an illiquid market.


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