China's bank lending slowed in December but companies raised more credit via bonds and shadow banking channels, raising questions over the quality of borrowing in the face of weak demand and deflationary pressure.
Banks extended 597.8 billion yuan ($90.76 billion) of new loans in the final month of 2015, less than expected and down from 708.9 billion in November, data showed on Friday.
That has reinforced concerns that Beijing's efforts to lower the cost of conventional credit via monetary easing are not transmitting to the real economy.
A broader measure of credit - total social financing - jumped to 1.82 trillion yuan in December, compared with November's 1.02 trillion yuan, its highest level since June.
The jump, led by non-bank loan forms of finance including equity and bond issuance along with shadow banking activity, complicates the picture as it suggests that cash is still finding its way to companies through other channels, not all of them welcome by policymakers.
A central bank official said December data showed liquidity was generally ample and economic activity was increasing, but economists remain divided over whether the world's second-largest economy has found a bottom or not.