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Banks Urged to Curb House Loans
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Commercial banks should take action to curb the increasing levels of lending in the real estate sector, China’s banking regulatory body has urged.


China needs to significantly increase mortgage down payments on expensive homes and investment properties as part of measures to rein in bank lending, according to Liu Mingkang, chairman of China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC).


"Commercial banks need to keep a close watch on borrowers' repayment ability and their credit status," he said. Liu made his comments at a meeting on Wednesday with China's major commercial banks.


A statement was posted on the commission's website yesterday. It states, "Banks should greatly promote loans for first-time home owners but stop granting mortgages for anyone other than the home owner.


"They should significantly increase down payments for those buying anything more than their first home and for expensive properties, villas, commercial properties and other speculative purchases," the statement said.


But CBRC didn’t specify by how much down payments should be raised.


Property prices in 70 large and medium-sized Chinese cities saw an average 5.5 percent increase in the first quarter from the same period in 2005, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.


The CBRC said it would take a targeted approach to controlling lending by placing stricter requirements on banks that had capital adequacy ratios of less than 8 percent. It would encourage certain types of property lending while restricting others.


As well as targeting property lending the commission said it was asking banks to stop arranging set quotas of loans with local and provincial governments -- a major source of lending since the start of the year. Much of the money has gone into fixed investment in property and other assets.


The CBRC's move is seen as an attempt to keep China's rapidly growing economy from overheating. Last month the central bank raised the one-year benchmark lending rate by 27 base points to 5.85 percent in a bid to curb credit and investment growth.


China reported total loans of 20.6 trillion yuan (US$2.575 trillion) which is up 14.7 percent over the previous year at the end of the first quarter.


The central bank recently denied reports that it was considering increasing down payments to 50 percent from the current 20 percent.


Liu's comments follow a six-point directive issued by the State Council last week requiring government agencies to rein in what many are calling runaway property price increases in some cities.


An executive meeting of the State Council chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao vowed to take necessary measures to improve the property market and curb rapid price rises in major cities.


(China Daily May 26, 2006)

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