A Financial Times Confidential Research (FTCR) survey has found that the majority of Chinese households have now taken on debt. First-tier city residents and more affluent households are more likely to have done so, reflecting better access to credit and rising mortgage borrowing. While the International Monetary Fund estimated this at just over 40% of GDP at the end of 2015, well below developed and developing Asia standards, household borrowing has risen sharply this year. Debt service payments nevertheless remain relatively low and consumers believe rising incomes will allow them to borrow further. Bankers admitted to FTCR that as mortgage demand has increased, lending standards have relaxed. This is not subprime America, but bad debt ratios within the household sector may rise, particularly if Beijing’s clampdown on the housing market crimps loan demand and/or sharply slows the economy.
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