(Yicai Global) July 7 -- China should not overlook risks associated with growing household debt, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics (SUFE) suggested in a recent macroeconomic development report.
China will very likely fulfill its full-year economic growth targets this year, but the country's economy still faces many challenges, the report said. Along with excessive corporate financial leverage and mounting local government debt, household debt presents significant risks to economic growth.
"Most people are aware of risks associated with corporate and local government debt, but they tend to be less alert to the dangers of mounting household debt," said Tian Guoqiang, dean at SUFE's Institute for Advanced Research, at the report's release conference. "In fact, household debt may pose even more serious risks than those in the corporate sector and local governments."
Rapidly increasing family debt has already become a major potential threat to China's macroeconomy and economic development prospects, said Huang Xiaodong, the institute's deputy dean.
Household debt has a noticeable impact on economic fundamentals that is especially evident in its slowing of consumer spending growth, Huang said. Household debt pushed overall economic growth down by about 2.35 percentage points from 2012 to 2014, data model calculations suggest.
Family debt in China is mainly comprised of mortgages. The stock and bond markets crashed following several bull runs in recent years, and investors' money has made its way back into the property market. The portion of newly-granted bank loans represented by mortgages has declined in the past three months on tightened real estate regulations, but is larger than it was in 2015.
The value of China's household debt reached 44.4 percent of the country's gross domestic product at the end of last year, marking an increase of nearly 14 percentage points from 30.7 percent in 2013 -- a growth rate faster than that recorded in the US before the financial crisis, the report said.
These figures only take outstanding household loans shown in financial institutions' credit balance sheets into account, but not debts incurred by Chinese families through other channels such as the housing provident fund.
With other debt considered, the report estimates that household debt may have accounted for more than 60 percent of China's GDP at the end of last year.