China: currency manipulator or market forces?

A good summary from the FT – see video below. The Renminbi is permitted to trade 2 per cent on either side of a daily midpoint set by the People’s Bank of China (PBOC). This suggests that the PBOC still has significant control of the renminbi. Basically at 9.15am the Peoples Bank of China (Central Bank) and the SAFE (State Administration for Foreign Exchange) issues a circular to all the trading banks stating that this is the exchange of the Renminbi to the US$. It is then permitted to trade 2 per cent on either side of the midpoint rate. The midpoint set by the PBOC on Monday of Rmb 6.9225 was the lowest since December, when trade tensions were last at fever pitch. The PBOC blamed the tariffs and trade protectionist measures on Chinese goods as the reason why the exchange rate has depreciated.

But is China a currency manipulator? According to the US Treasury a country is a currency manipulator when it does the following 3 things

  • A significant bilateral trade surplus with the US.(Check! China’s got that.)
  • A material current account surplus of more than 3% of GDP.(China does not have that.)
  • Persistent one-sided intervention in its currency market.(China’s move on Monday doesn’t fit this bill, so no.)

But isn’t downward pressure on the Renminbi just part of the what happens to a currency when its economy starts to slow and it’s selling fewer exports.

Winners with a cheaper yuan
1. Chinese exporters are more competitive abroad.
2. Foreign consumers of Chinese products – imported products are more affordable.
3. China’s case for becoming a reserve currency could be bolstered by letting markets determine the exchange rate.

Losers
1. Chinese companies that have debt denominated in dollars, or buy things in dollars
like Chinese airlines, or other businesses that rely on imported oil.
2. Companies that compete with Chinese firms – including those in neighboring countries.
3. Companies that depend on exports to China – like the makers of luxury goods and mining companies.
4. Anyone worried about weak inflation in the U.S. or Europe

Sources: FT and Business Insider

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