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Singapore bank lending dips in January: MAS

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IT WAS a quiet start to the year, with bank lending in Singapore inching lower in January from the previous month, preliminary data from the Monetary Authority of Singapore on Wednesday showed.

Loans through the domestic banking unit - which tracks lending in all currencies, but mainly reflects Singapore-dollar lending - stood at S$651 billion in January 2018, compared to S$652 billion in December.

This reflected weaker lending in the business segment, with business loans falling 0.6 per cent to S$387 billion in January from a month ago. This decrease, though, was smaller when compared to the 0.8 per cent decline in December.

As was the case in December, the two largest lending segments - building loans and lending to financial institutions other than banks - contracted in January from a month ago.

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Lending to financial institutions fell 1.7 per cent to S$97.2 billion, translating to the largest contraction on a month-on-month basis since June 2016.

Building and construction loans - the largest segment of all the business-loan categories - also slipped by 0.2 per cent in January from a month ago to S$120 billion.

Likewise, general commerce loans dipped in January to 0.2 per cent to S$68.3 billion, marking the third consecutive month-on-month decline since November.

To be sure, lending to transport and storage firms - which would include offshore and marine companies - had a stronger-than-usual gain in January from a month ago, rising 4 per cent to S$23 billion.

This reverses from two straight months of contraction, and is the strongest gain since April 2017.

Consumer loans grew from a month ago by 0.4 per cent to S$263 billion in January, gaining at the same pace in December.

This reflected in part an uptick in share financing in the start of the new year, with this increasing 5.8 per cent in January from a month ago to S$2.74 billion. But the gain came up against a 0.7 per cent contraction in credit card lending to S$10.9 billion.

The gains in housing loans, on a month-on-month basis, were also slower than the previous month. It rose 0.4 per cent in January to S$201 billion, as compared to the 0.5 per cent increase in December.

From a year ago, bank lending in January was up 5.4 per cent. This was a shade weaker than the 5.6 per cent year-on-year growth in December.