Chinese banks ratcheted up the pace of lending in the last month of 2011 to 640.5 billion yuan ($101.51 billion) from 562.2 billion yuan in November as the central bank eases policy to cushion the domestic impact of the global economic slowdown.

Annual growth in China's broad M2 money supply accelerated to 13.6 percent in December from November's 12.7 percent, data from the People's Bank of China showed on Sunday.

Analysts had expected 600 billion yuan in new loans for December and annual M2 growth of 12.7 percent in December

The central bank on November 30 announced a cut in the amount of cash that banks have to hold as reserves, and more reserve cuts are expected in the coming months.

Investors are keeping a close watch on credit and money data to gauge how far the central bank has gone to unleash cash to help ward off a sharp economic slowdown.

The stronger-than-expected lending and money supply figures could reinforce expectations that Beijing is firmly on track to unveil more pro-growth steps as inflation eases, which would boost both stock and commodity markets. ($1 = 6.3095 Chinese yuan)

(Reporting by Don Durfee and Judy Hua; Writing by Kevin Yao. Editing by Jane Merriman)