BEIJING: China's central bank sold a net 644.5 billion yuan ($98.9 billion) worth of foreign exchange in January, easing back from a record amount the previous month, but signalling persistent capital outflows as economic growth slows.
Outflows have increased since China's surprise devaluation of the yuan last August, and have been fanned by concerns about its economic slowdown and expectations of U.S. interest rate rises.
China's foreign exchange reserves fell $99.5 billion in January to $3.23 trillion, the lowest level since May 2012. That followed a record $512.66 billion drop in 2015.
Earlier, central bank data showed combined foreign exchange sales by the PBOC and commercial banks amounted to 629 billion yuan in December on a net basis.
Analysts have various estimates on China's capital outflows.
The Institute for International Finance has estimated that China' s central bank likely spent about $90 billion worth of reserves in currency interventions in January, leading to monthly net capital outflows of about $113 billion.
Chinese officials have played down the risk of capital outflows, pointing to a rush by Chinese companies to repay foreign debt, rising outbound investment by local firms and overseas spending by Chinese tourists.