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Chinese leverage: A ticking time bomb? – BCA Research

According to BCA Research's China Investment Strategy service, concerns about China’s credit and banking system are overblown.

China’s overall leverage ratio is not exceptionally high compared with other countries, particularly considering the country’s high savings and its bank-centric financial intermediation system. The pace of increase in the overall leverage ratio in the post-crisis period is a source of concern, but the increase in leverage is disproportionally concentrated in the public sector, while the private sector has been crowded out – a key reason for the country’s lukewarm economic performance amid an ongoing build-up in leverage.

Poor transparency on local government finances is a major hurdle affecting confidence in the country’s banking system. However, overall indebtedness of the public sector is well within the country’s fiscal affordability. It is hardly conceivable that the Chinese authorities will let banks shoulder material losses from local government borrowings. In other words, the risk of systemic stress in the banking sector or financial crisis is low.

The build-up in leverage has limited the authorities’ ability and willingness to boost growth through monetary policy. However, the case for an immediate and violent deleveraging cycle is absent. Policymakers will likely take measures to prevent further rapid increases in leverage and impose regulatory scrutiny over “shadow banking” activity rather than implement a broad crackdown on credit.

Despite the stellar performance indicators of Chinese banks, the stock market has priced in a material deterioration in banking sector assets. Given banks’ currently high provision coverage ratio and the country’s fiscal strength, we believe that market concerns over the banking sector are overblown.

This underpins our positive stance on the Chinese equity market.

This post was originally published by the BCA Research blog.

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