SHANGHAI, March 1 (Reuters) - New yuan loans by Chinese banks may total about 500 billion yuan ($79.45 billion) in February, official media reported, well below market expectations of 650 billion.
If the estimate is accurate, it would mark the second straight month in which new loans fell short of expectations. New loans in January were 738 billion, below expectations of 1 trillion.
New loans by China's "big four" state-owned commercial banks totaled 180 billion through Feb. 28, the official Securities Times reported on Thursday.
Based on historical data of the big four's portion of total bank lending, the paper estimated that total loans through Feb. 28 were 400 billion.
Because of the large portion of monthly lending that traditionally occurs on the last day of the month, the paper put its full-month estimate at 500 billion.
The People's Bank of China's monetary policy for the fourth quarter of 2011 said that its forecast of 14 percent broad money growth for 2012 was consistent with 8.5 trillion yuan in new bank lending.
Given the usual frontloaded 3:3:2:2 quarterly distribution of bank lending in China, if February loans are about 500 billion yuan, this target may prove difficult to meet. ($1 = 6.2936 Chinese yuan) (Reporting by Gabriel Wildau; Editing by Chris Lewis)