As China’s leaders figure out that pegging the yuan to the dollar while quintupling their debt in five years was a colossal mistake, they are, apparently, concluding that the only way out is a sudden, sharp currency devaluation. As Reuters reports...
China's central bank is under increasing pressure from policy advisers to let the yuan currency fall quickly and sharply, by as much as 10-15 percent, as its recent gradual softening is thought to be doing more harm than good.
The People's Bank of China (PBOC) has spent billions of dollars buying yuan over recent months to defend the exchange rate, but has failed to stabilize market sentiment. The currency has steadily lost another 2.6 percent against the U.S. dollar even after the bank sprung a surprise devaluation of nearly 2 percent in August.
That gradual, managed depreciation makes the yuan a one-way bet for investors who see the currency weaken even as the central bank intervenes to prop it up.
Policy insiders are now calling for a quick and sharp yuan depreciation, backed by tighter capital controls to curb speculation and the flight of money out of the country.
"We should let the yuan have a considerable depreciation, but we should have a bottom line; it cannot create a big impact on the economy and the financial system, and big panic in the capital market," an influential government economist told Reuters, suggesting the yuan be allowed to depreciate by 10-15 percent over an unspecified timeframe.
Letting the yuan fall sharply and quickly could help cushion many of China's debt-laden companies as the government pursues far-reaching structural reforms. Beijing is keen to restructure industry through "supply side" reform, especially reducing industrial over-capacity, but fears the corporate sector is too weak to handle that.
[ZH:However, one needs to ask whether that is the goal for China... after all - Exports have been rising with a stronger Yuan?
Finally, the real purpose of the PBOC's exercise in FX management today was, just like in August, to fire a warning shot at the Fed's rate-hiking plans. Only this time the warning shot is far, far louder.
In September the Fed postponed its rate hike as a result of China's devaluation. Will it do the same again next week? Because if China is about to unleash a 15% deval of the CNY against the entire world, expect a flood of Chinese FX reserves as the PBOC tries to control the glidepath of its currency, and avoid an all out collapse driven by soaring capital outflows.
In other words, we are now right back where we were in mid-August, just before the bottom fell out of the market.]
"The biggest risk in China is not really the economy," said Qian Wang, senior Asia economist for Vanguard Investments Hong Kong. "The real risk is, number one; the policy uncertainty, and number two; the currency. China is walking on eggshells."
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Chinese citizens, meanwhile, are anxiously awaiting tomorrow’s market open while mentally repeating the same three lines:
- Sure am glad I bought that gold last year.
- Wish I’d bought more gold last year.
- Wonder what I’ll have to pay for gold next week…
Here’s what that looks like in graphical form:
If China does spring a 15% devaluation on the already-wound-too-tight leveraged speculating community, the impact should be, well, amusing for sure, but otherwise a little hard to predict. About the only thing that can be said with near-certainty is that the above chart will have to be updated with much higher left and right axes.