Growth in Australian bank lending to China has slowed after a period of accelerated expansion as foreign banks take a more cautious approach.
Australian media reported Monday that the annual growth rate of Australian bank exposure to China dropped 10 percent last year from a high of 70 percent in 2013.
Data from the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) showed that in the December quarter, the banks' exposure dropped 700 million US dollars to 33.7 billion US dollars.
The surge in international lending to China over the past few years, that was primarily driven by lending to banks, was experiencing a global slowdown, the BIS report said.
"Claims on China contracted by 51 billion U.S. dollars in the fourth quarter of 2014, bringing down their year-on-year growth rate to 21 percent from 40 percent at end September 2014 ," the report said.
Across emerging Asia-Pacific nations, cross-border lending increased by 214 billion U.S. dollars last year, with Indonesia leading the charge with 19 percent growth.
In contrast, South Korean claims only grew by 1 percent and lending to India remained steady. Westpac Bank senior international economist Huw McKay told Fairfax Media on Monday after the big year in 2013, major foreign lenders to China had returned to the cautious approach they adopted a few years ago.
"The global banking community is in 'wait and see mode'. The last time China's economy was slowing there was a lot of unease about where the cycle was heading, so basically people stood pat for a little while," McKay said.
As well as slowing demand from Chinese borrowers, foreign banks are also being affected by the commodity price crash that has cut the value of cargo shipments being financed.
ANZ Bank, the Australian bank most exposed to Asia, said in February that plummeting commodity prices had crippled revenue in its trade finance business during the December quarter.