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13 April


China’s yuan rises for sixth straight month, the longest streak since 2014

Yuan is set for a gain of 1.6 per cent against the US dollar in November and is up 5.7 per cent so far this year

Photo: Reuters

/NOVOSTIVL/ The yuan’s exchange rate rose against the US dollar in November for the sixth straight month – its longest appreciation streak in six years, reflecting Beijing’s determination to boost the yuan’s international demand while also bracing for the incoming administration of US president-elect Joe Biden.

The yuan is set for a gain of 1.6 per cent against the US dollar in November. The extended appreciation stretch is the yuan’s longest since the six-month period from May to October 2014. So far this year, the yuan has risen 5.7 per cent against the US dollar and has been the best performer among the 11 most highly traded Asian currencies, according to Bloomberg.

Analysts said the yuan’s rising strength is a sign of how increasingly important it is for Beijing to promote international use of the yuan and relax restrictions to boost foreign investments in yuan-denominated assets and in its economy in the face of the threat of Chinese entities being cut off from access to American investment and the US dollar-based financial system.

“There are lots of benefits for China from a stronger currency, in terms of encouraging its [global] use,” said Ray Farris, chief investment officer for South Asia at investment bank Credit Suisse. “It should provide China with some degree of insulation from the risk of US sanctions.”

Global investors’ confidence in purchases of yuan-denominated assets is due in good part to China’s strong economic recovery from the economic shock caused by the coronavirus outbreak in the spring, while other countries are still mired in fresh lockdowns to control the virus spread. China is expected to be the only Group of 20 country to record positive growth this year.

In addition, China has taken steps to further open up its domestic markets to attract foreign investment.

New data released on Monday underscores the strength of the nation’s economic rebound.

The manufacturing and non-manufacturing purchasing managers’ indices (PMIs), which measure economic sentiment in the world’s second-largest economy, rose in November for the ninth month in a row.

The official manufacturing PMI reading was the highest since September 2017, while the non-manufacturing PMI was the highest reading since June 2012.

In addition, industrial profits jumped 28.2 per cent in October from a year earlier – the sharpest increase since March 2012 – due to a rebound in industrial activity, stronger exports and a recovery in consumer spending.

Expectations of continued yuan appreciation have helped boost capital inflows into China’s bond and equity markets, becoming a key driver of yuan internationalisation in recent years, said Kelvin Lau, senior economist for Greater China at Standard Chartered Bank.

The growth rate of foreign holdings of yuan-denominated assets accelerated further in the third quarter, rising at an average monthly pace of 37 per cent from a year earlier, up from 25 per cent in the second quarter, to 7.9 trillion yuan (US$1.2 trillion) across equities, bonds, loans and deposits, Lau said.

“All of this reflects global investors’ continued interest in diversification as China continues to open up its financial markets,” Lau said. “This has been further supported by the reduced political uncertainty following Biden’s win and improving vaccine prospects.”

At the same time, there is still the potential for the incoming Biden administration to use currency as a policy weapon by pivoting towards a weaker US dollar policy that would push up the yuan to a level that would hurt China’s economy and thus help maintain the US dollar’s supremacy in the long run, said Michael Howell, a cross-asset liquidity strategist at CrossBorder Capital, according to online research firm Smartkarma.

The US unit’s key role as an invoicing and funding currency often makes a moderate devaluation attractive to users because the value of the US dollar can be independent of its international use. Thus, the value of the US dollar frequently moves in a direction opposite to the world business cycle, Howell said.

“It makes geopolitical sense for America to undermine the yuan by forcing it higher to uneconomic levels,” Howell said. “We foresee the dollar both retaining and probably increasing its international presence compared with the fledgling yuan, but at the same time depreciating in value.”

Over the weekend, China charged that a preliminary US Commerce Department ruling – that China had provided a trade subsidy to some exporters of twist ties by undervaluing the yuan – violated international rules.

China’s Commerce Ministry called on US authorities to stop their investigation, while also disputing the preliminary finding that Chinese producers got an unfair advantage because of the then-weaker currency.

The US ruled that cable-tie exporters from China received an unfair subsidy due to China’s undervalued currency and instructed American customs agents to collect cash deposits of preliminary countervailing duties from importers of twist ties from China. The claim by the US was that the yuan’s exchange rate against the dollar was undervalued by 5 per cent in 2019 – the period at the heart of the complaint by US competitors.

“The move seriously violated relevant international rules,” China’s Commerce Ministry said in a statement on its website on Saturday, citing an unidentified official. “We hope the US Department of Commerce will fully consider the evidence and counter opinions submitted by the Chinese side and correct the relevant wrong practises and conclusions.”

Source: SCMP