China’s 2016 Yuan Policy

china chinese yuan Kathy Lien

What is China doing with the Yuan?

1. Front loading yuan weakness

2. Yuan depreciation is a policy tool. With SDR decision in the rearview mirror, China is stepping up their currency reform. Its the first year of their 5 year plan to rebalance the economy

3. Yuan intervention overnight is a familiar tactic used by the PBoC. Back in August, they weakened the Yuan 2% and then intervened by ordering state banks to buy yuan in an effort to drive out speculators.

Why are they doing this?

1. Currency is Overvalued

2. Weaker Currency is Consistent with Monetary Easing

3. Its Competitive Devaluation

4. Necessary part of their plan to provide underlying support for their economy as they shift from export to consumption


Consequences

1. These actions will flame the currency war in the region

2. Kills the Fed’s chance of tightening in March

3. More outflows

4. More yuan weakness with intervention to slow the decline

5. Yuan weakness is one of the greatest risks for the financial markets in the near term because a weaker yuan means less purchasing power for Chinese individuals and businesses = weaker profitability for US businesses selling to China

6.75 is our target for USD/CNY

Chart: Chinese Rate Hike Doesn’t Matter

china china second largest economy chinese reserve ratio forex blog Kathy Lien

For the second time this year and the fourth time since 2010, the Chinese government raised interest rates by 25bp, bringing its lending and deposit rates to 6.31 and 3.25 percent. Like many other countries around the world, China is worried about rising inflation pressures and the negative impact that it could have on inflation expectations and the overall economy. Over the past year, China has tried to combine rate hikes with higher reserve requirements for banks and the results have been limited. The recovery in the global economy has boosted growth expectations for China, forcing the central bank to take continued actions to slow their economy. While the timing of the announcement was a surprise, everyone expected more tightening from China because of the strength in commodity prices. In addition, China rarely make one-off moves which explains why the market’s reaction to China’s rate hike was so muted. High yielding currencies initially sold off after China’s announcement but since then, they have recuperated nearly all of their losses.

Diminishing Impact of Chinese Rate hikes

Each Chinese rate hike has had a smaller and smaller impact on the currency market. The first rate hike back in October elicited the biggest reaction because it was the first rate hike in nearly 3 years. At the time, all of the pro-cyclical currencies plunged against the U.S. dollar with the euro falling 1.5 percent and the Australian dollar declining by more than 2 percent. When China raised rates again on Dec 27th, the euro ended the day slightly higher against the U.S. dollar while the Australian dollar remained unchanged. In February, the reaction was slightly larger in the EUR/USD, GBP/USD and USD/JPY but the AUD/USD and NZD/USD ended the day higher. The price action today is even more muted as indicated in the chart below which suggests that investors are skeptical about China’s ability to tame their roaring economy. Slower Chinese growth is undoubtedly negative for global growth but we have been down this road before and even though there have been signs of slower growth in the Chinese economy, it has not had a significant impact on demand.

Rising inflationary pressures is the primary motivation behind China’s rate hike. With commodity prices continuing to rise, China did not want to take any risks, opting to preempt a further increase in inflationary pressures by raising interest rates. Given the health of the Chinese economy and the prospect of stronger global growth, we have not seen the last of China’s policy actions. We expect more interest rates hikes and more reserve requirement ratio hikes in 2011.

*April reaction is based on currency value change from Chinese rate hike announcement to 9am NY Time / 13:00 GMT

Diminishing Impact of Chinese RRR

china chinese reserve ratio Kathy Lien

China raised their reserve requirement ratio today for the third time this year and the ninth time since the beginning of 2010. I don’t have time to write much about this but I want to point out that Chinese is having a diminishing impact on the market.

This is what I wrote last month:

With each Chinese rate hike, there has been a smaller and smaller impact on the currency market. The first rate hike back in October elicited the biggest reaction because it was the first rate hike in nearly 3 years. At the time, all of the pro-cyclical currencies plunged against the U.S. dollar with the euro falling 1.5 percent and the Australian dollar declining by more than 2 percent. When China raised rates again on Dec 27th, the euro ended the day slightly higher against the U.S. dollar while the Australian dollar remained unchanged. The price action today is very similar to December which suggests that investors are skeptical about China’s ability to tame their roaring economy. Slower Chinese growth is undoubtedly negative for global growth but we have been down this road before and even though there have been signs of slower growth in the Chinese economy, it has not had a significant impact on demand. The Reserve Bank of Australia for example has recently attributed their rosier outlook to a strong Chinese economy.

Unsurprisingly, rising inflationary pressures is the primary motivation behind China’s rate hike. We have been looking for another rate hike from China since they tightened in December and with prices rising due to geopolitical risks, the Lunar New Year and a recent drought in the grain producing Northeast part of the country, China did not want to take any risks, opting to preempt a further increase in inflationary pressures by raising interest rates. Given the health of the Chinese economy and the prospect of stronger global growth, we have not seen the last of China’s policy actions. We expect more interest rates hikes and more reserve requirement ratio hikes in 2011. Although these actions will drive the Chinese Yuan higher, if global growth is supported by other countries around the world, it will soften the blow of Chinese tightening.

China vs. Japan vs. U.S. and Yuan

china china second largest economy chinese yuan forex blog Kathy Lien

News that China surpassed Japan as the world’s second largest economy is one of the biggest stories in the financial markets. For more than 4 decades, the only country with a larger economic output than Japan was the U.S. However over the past 20 years, the Japanese economy stagnated, giving China the opportunity to usurp Japan and snag a title that it has held since 1968. Just 5 years ago, China’s gross domestic product was around $2.3 trillion, about half Japan’s but rapid growth has pushed economic output to $5.88 trillion in 2010. While the Chinese economy grew, the Japanese economy contracted by 1.1 percent, bringing Japan’s economy to $5.47 trillion last year.

Although the absolute size of their economies are comparable in U.S. dollar terms, Japan and China could not be any more different. China has 10 times more people than Japan but the GDP per capita is also 10 times less. Some may look at this as room for growth but the rest of us may feel that the income inequality reflects the inherent weakness of the China economy. More than 150 million people, which is 10 percent of the population live on less than $1.25 a day. While growth in Japan is likely to pick up in 2011, it will have a very difficult time reclaiming its title from China.

Will China Usurp the U.S.?

The next big question investors are asking is whether China will usurp the U.S. to become the world’s largest economy. Currently the U.S. economy is 3 times the size of China’s which means that the Chinese economy would need to triple in order to match U.S. levels. This is an incredible feat that will be difficult to achieve but not inconceivable. In fact, many economists believe that China could eclipse the U.S. sometime between 2020 and 2030. Chinese incomes are rising and it is the government’s goal to reduce income inequality significantly over the next decade.

Implications on the Chinese Yuan

For the financial markets, this means that over the next 20 years, there will be a significant change in the dynamics of the foreign exchange market. Not only will the Chinese Yuan be revalued and set at higher and higher levels, but I expect much more flexibility in the Chinese currency. In fact, by 2030, I would be surprised if the Chinese Yuan did not become a free floating, fully convertible currency that is as actively used as the euro and possibly even the U.S. dollar. This will of course undermine the importance of the Japanese Yen and other currencies.

Impact of Last 3 China Rate Hikes on FX

china chinese reserve ratio chinese yuan forex blog Kathy Lien

With each Chinese rate hike, there has been a smaller and smaller impact on the currency market. The first rate hike back in October elicited the biggest reaction because it was the first rate hike in nearly 3 years. At the time, all of the pro-cyclical currencies plunged against the U.S. dollar with the euro falling 1.5 percent and the Australian dollar declining by more than 2 percent. When China raised rates again on Dec 27th, the euro ended the day slightly higher against the U.S. dollar while the Australian dollar remained unchanged. The price action today is very similar to December which suggests that investors are skeptical about China’s ability to tame their roaring economy. Slower Chinese growth is undoubtedly negative for global growth but we have been down this road before and even though there have been signs of slower growth in the Chinese economy, it has not had a significant impact on demand. The Reserve Bank of Australia for example has recently attributed their rosier outlook to a strong Chinese economy.

Unsurprisingly, rising inflationary pressures is the primary motivation behind China’s rate hike. We have been looking for another rate hike from China since they tightened in December and with prices rising due to geopolitical risks, the Lunar New Year and a recent drought in the grain producing Northeast part of the country, China did not want to take any risks, opting to preempt a further increase in inflationary pressures by raising interest rates. Given the health of the Chinese economy and the prospect of stronger global growth, we have not seen the last of China’s policy actions. We expect more interest rates hikes and more reserve requirement ratio hikes in 2011. Although these actions will drive the Chinese Yuan higher, if global growth is supported by other countries around the world, it will soften the blow of Chinese tightening.

Say Hu? Chinese President Visiting U.S. Next Week

china forex blog Kathy Lien

Chinese President Hu will be visiting President Obama next week. Here’s what I think they will say to each other

Whether the timing of the trade surprise was intentional or not, President Hu will be arriving in Washington on January 19th for his official state visit. There is usually no mystery to these significant data surprises. President Hu’s visit is a big deal because it is his first “state visit” since 2006, even though the two leaders have met a number of times in the past. It should be no surprise that President Obama will be pressing China to revalue its currency but these carefully negotiated summits are more about expanding cooperation and promoting partnership. President Hu will also be able to point to the latest trade numbers and say that his hands are tied because of slower export demand. In all likelihood, the trade surplus will increase once, just like it did between April and June of last year. A week before President Obama was set to meet with Hu Jintao, China reported its first monthly trade deficit since 2004. Coincidence or not, I leave that for you to decide.

Impact on FX: What if China Raised Rates?

china chinese yuan forex blog Kathy Lien

Everyone is talking about the possibility of China raising interest rates. What if they did? How could it impact currencies?

In October, the PBoC surprised everyone by raising interest rates for the first time since 2007. At that time, we said the central bank rarely makes one off changes and we believe that the central bank will raise interest rates again before the end of the year. On the day that the PBoC raised rates (which was October 19), all of the major currencies including the Japanese Yen fell sharply against the U.S. dollar. This suggests that if the Chinese central bank were to raise rates again, it could exacerbate the flight to safety into U.S. dollars.

However interestingly enough, the move in USD/JPY was mild compared to the move in other currencies. Safe haven flows into U.S. dollars overshadowed demand for Yen -- Japan leans more heavily on China than the U.S.

Therefore if China were to raise rates again, the U.S. dollar should be the biggest beneficiary.

FT on the Massive Dollar Carry Trade

china dollar carry trade Kathy Lien

The Financial Times carried a long article yesterday by Peter Garnham on the fears for the future of the dollar carry trade. The key takeaway from the article is that China estimates the dollar carry trade to be $1.5 trillion compared to an $1 trillion that was put into the Yen carry trade (the Yen estimate is not from China but from an independent economics firm).

If this is true, then when the U.S. economy improves and the Fed is forced to raised interest rates, a reversal of the short dollar carry trade could send the dollar sharply higher. A stronger dollar will have significant consequences for commodities and equities (think lower gold and oil prices and weaker earnings).

This of course is still a long ways off since the Fed is normalizing monetary policy at a snails pace, which will leave the dollar a cheap funding currency for the time being. Here are some snippets from the article. You can read the full article on the FT site (subscription may be needed).

Fears rise for dollar carry trade future

At the World Economic Forum in Davos last month, Zhu Min, deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China, spoke openly about his biggest fear for global financial markets in 2010.

“To me, the big risk this year is the dollar carry trade,” he said “It is a massive issue. Estimates are that the dollar carry trade is $1,500bn – which is much bigger than Japan’s carry trade was.”

His fear was that the carry trade might start to unwind, pushing the dollar higher and derailing the rally in asset markets that has accompanied the global economy’s emergence from the financial crisis.

It is a sentiment shared by other investors, particularly now that the dollar is strengthening after a prolonged period of weakness last year. Just as the Japanese yen jumped higher following the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, so the dollar could appreciate sharply in the next few months, and assets such as commodities, equities and other higher yielding currencies sell off.

China’s Dollar Trap

china chinese yuan forex blog Kathy Lien

Here is a very well written article about China’s predicament with the U.S. dollar and explains why they won’t be talking down the dollar anytime soon:

From the Weekly Standard

The Dollar’s New Best Friend
Beijing warms up to the greenback--because it has to.
by Gordon G. Chang

Last Tuesday, Brazil, Russia, India, and China--the so-called BRIC nations--met in Yekaterinburg, Russia, for what was supposed to be an anti-American gabfest. The main agenda item for the first formal meeting of the four largest developing economies was the future of the dollar. In recent months, Beijing and Moscow have led a global charge against the greenback, and Brasilia has been a willing co-conspirator in the effort. The BRIC post-summit communiqué referred to the world’s currency problems but, to the surprise of observers, did not attack the dollar head on.

What happened? Beijing, apparently, stopped the other nations cold. The Chinese called the tune at the Moscow meeting--their economy is almost as large as the other three combined--and so the surprisingly nonconfrontational tone of the BRIC official statement mirrored Beijing’s recent climbdown on the currency issue.

The Chinese government in the last few weeks seems to have radically changed its tune on this issue. In March, Zhou Xiaochuan, the head of China’s central bank, called for the replacement of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency in a widely reported text released to the public. In May, however, Beijing officials took a different tack, going out of their way to talk about the dollar’s unique status.

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