Is China Quietly Targeting A 20% Devaluation?

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by Tyler Durden
Tuesday, Aug 25, 2015 - 19:08

When China took the "surprising" (to anyone who was naive enough to think that the country’s economy isn’t in absolute free fall) step of resorting to a dramatic yuan devaluation on the heels of multiple ineffectual policy rate cuts, Beijing pitched the move as a "one-off" effort to erase a ~3% persistent dislocation in the market. 

Seeing the effort for what it most certainly was - a tacit admission of underlying economic malaise and a last ditch effort to rescue the export-driven economy via an epic beggar thy neighbor along with the whole damn EM neighborhood competitive devaluation - analysts were quick to note that the PBoC may ultimately be targeting a 10% or more depreciation in order to provide a sufficient boost to exports. 

Well, official protestations to the contrary, it appears as though even some Party agencies are assuming a much weaker yuan both over the near- and medium-term. Here’s Bloomberg:

Some Chinese agencies involved in economic affairs have begun to assume in their research that the yuan will weaken to 7 to the dollar by the end of the year, said people familiar with the matter.


The research further factors in the yuan falling to 8 to the dollar by the end of 2016, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the studies haven’t been made public. 


Those projections -- which suggest a depreciation of more than 8 percent by Dec. 31 and about 20 percent by the end of 2016 -- were adopted after the currency was devalued this month and compare with analysts’ forecasts for the yuan to reach 6.5 to the dollar by the end of this year.


While the rate used in the research isn’t a government target, it suggests China may allow the yuan to fall further after a depreciation in which the currency was allowed to weaken by nearly three percent on Aug. 11 and 12. The yuan weakened for a second day in Shanghai to 6.4124.


“It wouldn’t be totally unreasonable for China to allow a weakening like this,” said Zhou Hao, an economist at Commerzbank AG in Singapore, referring to the 7 level against the dollar at the end of this year. “A certain level of depreciation can be accepted according to China’s international payments situation, but it may bring unforeseeable pressure on foreign debt repayments and capital outflows.”


The rate used in the research constitutes reference levels used for economic assessments and projections, according to the people. The PBOC didn’t respond to a fax seeking comment.

A dollar-yuan rate of 7 would be a more than 8 percent depreciation from Tuesday’s level. At an Aug. 13 briefing on the yuan, PBOC Deputy Governor Yi Gang dismissed the idea that China would devalue the yuan by 10 percent to boost exports, calling it “nonsense.”

Yes, "nonsense", just like how Chinese QE "doesn't exist" despite the fact that untold billions in stocks have been transferred from CSF to the sovereign wealth fund just so the PBoC can continue to insist that its balance sheet isn't expanding. 

In any event, a more dramatic devaluation may ultimately be necessary not only to boost exports, but to alleviate the necessity of interveing constantly to arrest the yuan's slide. As BNP's Mole Hau put it in a note out Monday, "what appears to have happened is that, whereas the daily fix was previously used to fix the spot rate, the PBoC now seemingly fixes the spot rate to determine the daily fix, [thus] the role of the market in determining the exchange rate has, if anything, been reduced in the short term." Which explains why the FX reserve drain may well be continuing unabated causing the massive liquidity crunch that's forced the PBoC to inject hundreds of billions of liquidity via reverse repos and ultimately forced today's RRR cut. 

Of couse as we said earlier today, "while global markets received China's announcement with their typical 'a central bank just came to our rescue' exuberance, the reality is that as least today's RRR cut will have zero impact on spurring aggregate demand, and is merely a delayed response to FX interventions that have already taken place [which means] for China to net ease, it will have to do more, much more [but] ironically, doing so, will merely accelerate the capital outflows as a result of the ongoing plunge in the CNY, which leads to the circular logic of China's intervention ... the more it intervenes in an attempt to stabilize every aspect of its economy and finance, the more it will have to intervene, until either it wins, or something snaps."

Ultimately, that "something" may end up being the daily yuan management effort because the intervention game is getting expensive and incremental easing will only make it more so.

A free float may be the better option and if the passages excerpted above from Bloomberg are any indication, the yuan is going to be much, much lower by the end of next year one way or another. The only question is how much pain China incurs on the way there. We'll close with the following quote from SocGen:

If the PBoC wants to stabilise currency expectations for good, there are only two ways to achieve this: complete FX flexibility or zero FX flexibility. At present, the latter is also increasingly unviable, since the capital account is much more open. Therefore, the PBoC has merely to keep selling FX reserves until it lets go.