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China Banks’ Bad Loans Rise for Sixth Quarter as Economy Slows

Chinese banks’ bad loans increased for a sixth straight quarter, the longest deterioration streak in at least nine years, as economic growth slowed.

Non-performing loans climbed by 33.6 billion yuan ($5.5 billion) in the three months ended March 31, to 526.5 billion yuan, the China Banking Regulatory Commission said in a statement on its website today. Soured debt rose across all lender categories, including state-owned and regional banks.

China’s banking system is grappling with higher defaults and slowing profit growth as regulators ease control over banks’ loan pricing and deposits to spur competition. Net interest margin at the nation’s 3,800 lenders contracted to 2.57 percent in the first quarter from 2.75 percent in preceding period, the regulator said.

Economic growth has also moderated, with expansion at 7.7 percent in the first quarter, trailing the median forecast for 8 percent in a Bloomberg News survey and slower than the fourth-quarter expansion of 7.9 percent. The government in March set a 2013 economic growth goal of 7.5 percent, the same target as last year.

The non-performing loans ratio for Chinese banks rose to 0.96 percent at the end of March from 0.95 percent at the end of last year.

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