China's bank lending surged to a record 2.51 trillion yuan ($385 billion) in January, official figures showed on Tuesday, as credit gushed to help boost the flagging economy.
New loans extended by banks beat market expectations of 1.9 trillion yuan, according to a median forecast compiled by Bloomberg News, and far exceeded the 597.8 billion yuan in December.
But analysts cautioned that seasonal factors might have played a role, as lending typically jumps at the beginning of the year when the state-dominated banking sector receives new quotas for loans.
"China's new yuan loans surged to a record high," ANZ Banking Group said in a research note. "New yuan loans exhibit a strong seasonality and usually peak in January."
Companies might also be switching into yuan currency debt given declining interest rates, it added.
China's economy grew 6.9 percent last year, the slowest rate in a quarter century, which has prompted the central bank to cut interest rates six times since late 2014 and also reduce the amount of funds banks must set aside as reserves.
Separately, total social financing -- an alternative measure of credit in the real economy –- reached 3.42 trillion yuan in January, the central People's Bank of China (PBoC) said in a statement on its website.
The figure was nearly double the 1.82 trillion yuan in December and also exceeded Bloomberg's median estimate of 2.2 trillion yuan.
Analysts expect further monetary loosening going forward.
"The increase is partly seasonal -- lending always jumps at the start of the year when banks are issued fresh loan quotas," Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist at Capital Economics, said in a research note.
"Looking ahead, we expect credit growth to remain strong given that the PBoC has kept monetary conditions loose," he said.