China Said to Consider Options to Back Yuan, Curb Outflows

China has studied possible scenarios for the yuan and capital outflows this year and is preparing contingency plans, according to people familiar with the matter. The offshore yuan surged the most in a year.

The authorities have used stress tests, models and field research, said the people who asked not to be identified as the studies haven’t been made public yet. Financial regulators have already encouraged some state-owned enterprises to sell foreign currency and may order them to temporarily convert some holdings into yuan under the current account if necessary, they added. The State Administration of Foreign Exchange didn’t immediately reply to a fax seeking comment.

The reported plans come amid increasing pressure on the yuan from a resurgent dollar, rising capital outflows and concern that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump may make good on his threats to take punitive measures on China’s exports. Policy makers in Beijing have recently taken a slew of measures to tighten control of the currency market, including placing higher scrutiny on citizens’ conversion quotas and stricter requirements for banks reporting cross-border transactions.

“China has been challenged by capital outflows and declining foreign-exchange reserves, and policy makers are taking measures to solve the problem,” said Eddie Cheung, a Hong Kong-based foreign-exchange strategist at Standard Chartered Plc, the most accurate forecaster for Asian emerging-market currencies according to a Bloomberg ranking. “Funds will continue to exit in the first half due to individuals’ purchases of the dollar and on concerns of U.S. political uncertainty.”

The offshore yuan jumped 0.9 percent to 6.8958 per dollar as of 7:20 p.m. Hong Kong time. That’s the biggest increase since January 2016. The currency traded in Shanghai climbed 0.3 percent, the most since July, to 6.9400. The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index fell 0.4 percent.

China may also further sell U.S. Treasuries in 2017 if needed to keep the yuan’s exchange rate stable, the people said, adding that the size of the reduction will depend on capital outflows and market intervention. The nation’s holdings of Treasuries declined to the lowest in more than six years in October as the world’s second-largest economy used its currency reserves to support the yuan.

China’s currency stockpile has probably shrunk further after hitting a five-year low of $3.05 trillion in November, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey before data due as early as this week.

Capital outflows from China accelerated in recent months as the yuan suffered its worst year of losses against the U.S. dollar since 1994, declining 6.5 percent. About $760 billion left the country in the first 11 months of 2016, according to a Bloomberg Intelligence gauge. The yuan will decline 2.7 percent the rest of this year, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey.

“The policies, if implemented, can help increase foreign-exchange supply in the onshore market, and hence help defend the yuan in the short term,” said Carol Pang, vice president for fixed income, currency and commodities at Zhongtai International Holdings Ltd. in Hong Kong. “However, it won’t change market expectation of further depreciation.”

Bloomberg

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Dean Popplewell

Dean Popplewell

Vice-President of Market Analysis at MarketPulse
Dean Popplewell has nearly two decades of experience trading currencies and fixed income instruments. He has a deep understanding of market fundamentals and the impact of global events on capital markets. He is respected among professional traders for his skilled analysis and career history as global head of trading for firms such as Scotia Capital and BMO Nesbitt Burns. Since joining OANDA in 2006, Dean has played an instrumental role in driving awareness of the forex market as an emerging asset class for retail investors, as well as providing expert counsel to a number of internal teams on how to best serve clients and industry stakeholders.
Dean Popplewell