By PAMELA SAMPSON
BANGKOK (AP) â¿¿ Global stock markets reeled Monday, with Shanghai's index enduring its biggest loss in four years, after China allowed commercial lending rates to soar in a move analysts said was aimed at curbing a booming underground lending industry.
Analysts say the spike late Thursday in the country's interbank lending rate to over 13 percent was part of an effort to trim off-balance-sheet lending that could threaten the financial stability of the world's second-largest economy.
But markets feared the move could also hurt economic growth. China's major state-owned banks are unwilling to lend to any but their biggest clients, so the vast majority of smaller businesses must rely on informal lending.Mainland China's Shanghai Composite Index plummeted 5 percent to 1,968.51 while the smaller Shenzhen Composite Index plunged 6.1 percent to 881.87. Britain's FTSE 100 dropped 1.5 percent to 6,067.35. Germany's DAX fell 1.1 percent to 7,704.88. France's CAC-40 fell 1.5 percent to 3,601.88. Wall Street also appeared headed for losses, with Dow Jones industrial futures down 0.7 percent to 14,614. S&P 500 futures lost 0.7 percent to 1,573.70. On Monday, the central bank told China's commercial lenders to focus on lending to the "real economy" rather than financial speculation. A statement on the bank's website made no mention of informal banking but told lenders to do a better job of forecasting credit and liquidity needs. The government's Xinhua News Agency said in a commentary that Chinese banks had been taking growing risks by diverting money into speculative investments and largely unmonitored underground banking. "It is not that there is no money but that the money is being put in the wrong place," the government's Xinhua News Agency said in a commentary. "The more important question to consider is not whether there is a shortage of money but how it is being used."