China to Float Yuan More Freely – Roubini Predicts: Yuan Appreciation Against Dollar Unlikely – I Say: Yuan Has Already Begun Depreciating

Reuters writes China forex move could thwart U.S. hopes – Roubini:

China’s decision to move away from its currency peg might mean the yuan weakens against the dollar instead of strengthens as Washington wants, Nouriel Roubini, one of Wall Street’s most closely followed economists, said on Saturday.

China said on Saturday it would gradually make the yuan more flexible after pegging it to the dollar for nearly two years, a move that the U.S. government and others around the world have long been calling for.

“This is the first significant signal in years of a change in Chinese currency policy,” Roubini, best known for having predicted the U.S. housing meltdown, told Reuters.

But it remains to be seen how China would put the new system into practice including the composition of a basket of currencies that Beijing will use as a reference point for the yuan — also known as the renminbi — and the base date for that basket, he said in an e-mail.

“Since they have not changed the previous range for the band — plus or minus 0.5 percent — most likely on Monday China will allow the renminbi vs U.S. dollar to move,” said Roubini.

The yuan has risen sharply in recent months against the euro, which sank over Europe’s debt problems, so a stronger yuan could not be taken for granted, he said.

If the euro were to continue to depreciate, “the renminbi would have to be allowed to depreciate relative to the dollar, a paradoxical outcome,” Roubini said.

His comments echoed those of an adviser to China’s central bank on Saturday.

Li Daokui, an academic adviser to the monetary policy committee of the People’s Bank of China, told Reuters in Beijing that the yuan could depreciate against the dollar if the euro falls sharply against the U.S. currency.

Roubini, like other analysts, said a major strengthening of the yuan looked unlikely.

“Even if the Chinese were to allow a gradual renminbi appreciation relative to the U.S. dollar, the size of such appreciation would be modest over the next year, not more than 3 or 4 percent as the trade surplus has shrunk, growth is likely to slow down on China and labor/employment unrest remains of concern to the Chinese.”

For more on this see my own predictions on this particular matter.

July 2009 – China Pegging Yuan to Dollar Again?

The stabilization of the Dollar against the Yuan has almost coincided the reversal of the Dollar’s fall against other major currencies. It thus appears as if, since mid 2008, the Yuan/Dollar peg has been reinstated and continues to be in place as these lines are written. What is also noteworthy is that the US current account deficit has been declining sharply since then.

A first look at the above chart leads one to believe that Chinese and US authorities aimed at putting an end to the fall of the Dollar, and thus intervened accordingly. However, another possibility which I would like to propose is that the Dollar had fundamentally and truly begun to stabilize at the level of RMB 6.83 at that point and was actually in for a major revaluation upwards. Thus the current intervention by Chinese authorities could actually be aiming at a stabilization of its own currency at a higher level than the market would mandate.

Some points fundamentally support the thesis that the dollar should gain in value against the major currencies:

– Global deleveraging is driving investors from other currencies back to the Dollar
Deflation hitting the US first, and other countries only later
– Imports into the US are falling rapidly
– Significant domestic spending sprees by the Chinese government

All this may indicate that if the Chinese government were to let the Yuan float freely at some point, it may actually drop significantly against the US Dollar. Such an event could possibly be the ignition for a significant Dollar rally in the years to come.

The Reuters article is also in line with something I pointed out recently:

An interesting side effect of the Dollar rally is what’s happening to Chinese exports. Since its currency is pegged to the US Dollar, the Yuan is strengthening against the Euro which is hurting the powerful Chinese export lobbyists.

Bottom line: The supposed Yuan devaluation everyone seems to be expecting, were the Yuan to be freely floated, is simply not gonna happen!

Luckily, such predictions are testable. Let’s see how we are doing so far. Let’s observe the direction the Dollar has begun to take against the Yuan:

dollar-yuan-06-2010

Let’s see if the trend holds up …

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Chinese Inflation Spirals Out of Control

CNN Money accurately makes the obvious observation that Chinese inflation might be out of control:

One of the most popular debates in global macro circles currently relates to China and whether its economy is in a bubble. On the side of the bubble callers is one of the more successful short sellers of our generation, James Chanos. Admittedly, Chanos is usually on the right side of these big calls and, for the time being, I’m not going to debate him. Great Chinese bubble debate aside for now, how does Chanos’s theory hold up in light of the data we’ve been reviewing?

Data from various sources within China that we’ve seen over the past few weeks has pointed us directly toward one simple conclusion: China is experiencing serious inflation. Some of the keys for us include:

* Chinese CPI (Consumer Price Index) and PPI (Producer Price Index) are up 2.8% and 6.8%, respectively, year-over-year. Combined, this is the largest spike in combined inflation in 18 months;
* Chinese property prices, based on a survey of 70 cities, were up 12.8% year-over-year in April, which is the largest spike since 2005;
* Chinese money supply growth was up 21.5% year-over-year in April;
* Chinese loan growth was up 51% sequentially from March to April at 774B Yuan; and
* Chinese industrial production was up 17.9% on a year-over-year basis in April.

While economists in the United States continue to argue over whether the U.S. is experiencing meaningful inflation, there’s little room for debate when it comes to China.

The direction in China: up

Prices for consumers and producers are up, real estate prices are up double digits, and money supply is accelerating in a big way. The key factor is money supply. If it continues to grow, inflation will continue to accelerate.

The beauty of the Chinese system, being a command economy, is that the leadership of the country can make real time economic decisions to adjust to the data they’re getting. And we are already seeing Chinese leadership implement policies in the hopes of tempering these inflationary tailwinds.

On the real estate front, the government has ordered 78 state-controlled companies to exit the real estate sector, banks are newly requiring a 50% down payment on second homes, and the Chinese government mandates 20% cash down at land auctions. Collectively, these actions should help slow the white-hot Chinese real estate market.

The other key policy that Chinese government is implementing relates to bank loans. After a period in 1998 where the Chinese banking system was in effect insolvent, Chinese officials are rightfully cautious about rampant loan growth, for more than inflationary reasons. To combat bad loans and hopefully stymie inflation, reserve requirement have been raised three times for Chinese banks. Currently they’re at 17% for large banks and 15% for smaller banks — just under the all time high for reserves. In effect the government is forcing banks to park some money, making loans for the booming property market harder to come by.

At risk of actually creating a bubble, Chinese officials cannot allow these inflationary factors to pick up speed. Therefore Chinese officials will likely continue to take policy actions to slow growth and cool inflation. These policies will have some predictable effects. But the most direct and knowable effect relate to commodities.

Chinese citizens have negative incentive to save: sound familiar?

China is the world’s largest producer of steel, and also consumes almost one-third of all global steel. As construction slows in China, the demand for steel and specific commodities related to construction, copper in particular, will slow on the margin. Any slowdown in Chinese demand will create a negative headwind for the prices of many of the commodities related to construction, but will also affect other commodities, like oil.

As of now, the Chinese economy is signaling the need for more aggressive tightening based on the points above. But there is also the reality of negative real interest rates. Currently, the consumer price index is outpacing the one-year interest rate on savings of 2.25%, meaning the Chinese have no incentive to save any money. The two policies needed to offset inflation are an increase in interest rates and an upward revaluation of the Yuan. Both actions would help slow Chinese growth and commodity demand further in the coming months.

What worries Chinese economic planners considering these fixes is that rather than just slow down and control growth, they have the potential of “popping” the bubble, making Jim Chanos a happy man but also causing serious damage to China’s export heavy economy. China would like to have it both ways right now: rapid growth and wealth creation, but also the safety of a properly valued, non-inflationary economy. That’s a tough task: nearly every time we’ve seen this movie before, the ending is the same.

Over the past 4 years the Chinese money supply has risen by more than 100%. Meanwhile, in the US the true money supply has merely increased by 22% in that same period.

In the US credit has been contracting heavily for the past 2 years. In China it has been continuing to overheat during that time.

Flashback July 2009:

Some points fundamentally support the thesis that the dollar should gain in value against the major currencies:

– Global deleveraging is driving investors from other currencies back to the Dollar
– Deflation hitting the US first, and other countries only later
– Imports into the US are falling rapidly
– Significant domestic spending sprees by the Chinese government

All this may indicate that if the Chinese government were to let the Yuan float freely at some point, it may actually drop significantly against the US Dollar …

You see now what I was talking about? That upwards valuation of the Yuan that US exporters, the US government, and hyperinflationis keep on dreaming of is most likely not going to happen!

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Free Floating Yuan = Stronger Yuan ??

An interesting assumption in virtually all debates concerning the Yuan is that it would appreciate against the Dollar, once let float freely. A good example is the article below in which this premise is applied, set in stone and unquestioned from start to finish:

A growing number of global leaders are urging China to look to its long-term interests and allow its tightly controlled currency to rise. But they are encountering reluctance from a government still very much worried about the economy in the short term.

President Barack Obama and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, in Beijing on separate visits Tuesday, told Chinese officials that yielding to market pressures for a stronger yuan would help the global economy recover.

Nonetheless, Chinese President Hu Jintao didn’t announce any new commitment on currency policy to Mr. Obama. Other Chinese officials and economists continue to defend China’s policy of keeping the yuan steady against the dollar to aid Chinese exports, which are still vital in sustaining the nation’s economic recovery despite growing domestic consumption.
[Geithner] Reuters

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner took a softer tone on China’s currency at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Tuesday.

At a congressional hearing Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner sounded a much softer tone than in the past on China’s currency, saying it’s “very important” that the Chinese government pursue “broader reforms to their exchange system over time.”

“China has to take steps to move away from excessive reliance on exports” and find ways to stimulate domestic consumption, Mr. Geithner said at the hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, refraining from harsh rhetoric toward the Asian giant. He said that China is already making progress on rebalancing its economy and that “we’re seeing very promising, early signs” of a shift toward growth that relies on “domestic consumption and investment.”

The discussions highlight how China’s heavily managed currency is once again at the center of debates over global economic policy, after being pushed to the background by the financial crisis.

Though Mr. Hu, Mr. Obama and other world leaders have promised to cooperate in pulling the world economy out of its deepest slump in a generation, coordinating economic policies across very different countries remains difficult.

High unemployment makes trade with China a volatile political issue in the U.S., but similar pressures make it difficult for China to yield to U.S. pressure on the currency. A stronger yuan would make Chinese exports less competitive, which is unappealing for China in a year when exports are down about 20% and many manufacturers have closed.

Chinese leaders who have criticized the West’s economic management may also find it politically difficult to yield to demands on the currency.

On the other hand, China’s economy has recovered faster than most. Because the yuan has weakened sharply against other currencies, European and Asian competitors complain that China has an unfair advantage.

Meanwhile, some economists worry the extra juice to the economy from the cheap yuan, in addition to huge government stimulus, risks new bubbles in real estate and stocks.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn said keeping the currency down may help exports in the short term, but it imposes other costs. “You have to balance your needs in the short term with the long term,” he said. For instance, an undervalued currency encourages companies to invest in ways that may not be viable once the currency rises.

“If you have wrong prices, you make wrong decisions, especially concerning investment in the long run,” he said, adding that it is time for China to look more toward long-term stability now that it has accumulated advantages from an undervalued currency.

A stronger currency also would boost the purchasing power of Chinese households, which would support the Chinese government’s drive to make economic growth less dependent on exports, Mr. Strauss-Kahn said.

Chinese officials frequently counter that big swings in the exchange rate can harm companies and disrupt the economy, which is of particular concern at a time when confidence is fragile. They sometimes contrast the stability of the yuan’s exchange rate — which makes it easier for firms to plan ahead — with the wild swings in the dollar’s value.

“China keeping a basically stable exchange-rate policy is, in reality, good for the global economic recovery,” Yao Jian, spokesman for China’s Ministry of Commerce, told reporters Monday. “If the request is to strengthen other currencies, while allowing the dollar to keep weakening, that’s not very fair.”

Chinese officials aren’t totally closed to arguments for a stronger yuan. In a statement many interpreted as a gesture to the growing concerns about the currency, the People’s Bank of China last week said exchange-rate policy would take into account “changes in international capital flows and the trends of major currencies.”

Still, many private analysts don’t think a move on the yuan is imminent.

Authorities may feel freer to shift once exports are growing again and inflation has turned positive, which could happen early next year. In coming months, China will have to tell other members of the Group of 20 leading economies how it plans to boost consumer spending.

Although China’s government publicly has grown more confident about the strength of its recovery, growth still remains heavily dependent on government stimulus programs.

“China needs the U.S. economy to recover strongly and renew its import growth. Otherwise, China will have a tough time sustaining its recovery,” said Eswar Prasad, an economist at Cornell University.

That is one of the key reasons China is reluctant to lift its currency now. World Bank chief economist Justin Yifu Lin, a former Chinese government adviser, has argued that if a stronger yuan snuffs out a recovery in China’s export sector, it could weaken China’s entire economy and have negative consequences for global growth.

As I noted before on this matter (and so far I see no reason to change my mind on that):

Some points fundamentally support the thesis that the dollar should gain in value against the major currencies:

– Global deleveraging is driving investors from other currencies back to the Dollar
– Deflation hitting the US first, and other countries only later
– Imports into the US are falling rapidly
– Significant domestic spending sprees by the Chinese government

All this may indicate that if the Chinese government were to let the Yuan float freely at some point, it may actually drop significantly against the US Dollar. Such an event could possibly be the ignition for a significant Dollar rally in the years to come.

We will see how things develop over time. I am not saying that my scenario HAS to occur. But I think it certainly is a possibility over the next 2 years or so. What I reject is a completely one-sided approach to this question. As Ayn Rand always used to say: Whenever you encounter contradiction in your thinking, check your premise. I will surely check mine if I turn out to be wrong.

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China Pegging Yuan to Dollar Again?

From June 1995 through the beginning of 2005, the Chinese government was pegging its Currency to the US Dollar. It was producing money (Yuans) to purchase Dollars, fostering a US current account deficit.

In 2005 the Chinese government ended the peg against the US dollar and switched over to a currency basket. From 2005 though June 2008, the value of one Dollar dropped from RMB 8.28 in 2005 to about RMB 6.83 by June 2008.

Since then, it seems, the fall of the dollar has stopped and the Yuan/Dollar exchange rate remained suspiciously stable. This has gone on through right now. The chart below illustrates this:

The stabilization of the Dollar against the Yuan has almost coincided the reversal of the Dollar’s fall against other major currencies. It thus appears as if, since mid 2008, the Yuan/Dollar peg has been reinstated and continues to be in place as these lines are written. What is also noteworthy is that the US current account deficit has been declining sharply since then.

A first look at the above chart leads one to believe that Chinese and US authorities aimed at putting an end to the fall of the Dollar, and thus intervened accordingly. However, another possibility which I would like to propose is that the Dollar had fundamentally and truly begun to stabilize at the level of RMB 6.83 at that point and was actually in for a major revaluation upwards. Thus the current intervention by Chinese authorities could actually be aiming at a stabilization of its own currency at a higher level than the market would mandate.

Some points fundamentally support the thesis that the dollar should gain in value against the major currencies:

– Global deleveraging is driving investors from other currencies back to the Dollar
Deflation hitting the US first, and other countries only later
– Imports into the US are falling rapidly
– Significant domestic spending sprees by the Chinese government

All this may indicate that if the Chinese government were to let the Yuan float freely at some point, it may actually drop significantly against the US Dollar. Such an event could possibly be the ignition for a significant Dollar rally in the years to come.

Related Posts: