By Christopher Balding, Professor of Economics at Peking University, HSBC Business School, and blogger at Balding’s World.
© The Financial Times Ltd 2015 FT and 'Financial Times' are trademarks of The Financial Times Ltd.
From UBS’s Tao Wang on what, post China’s surprise revaluation, is now an oft used phrase, the impossible trinity — AKA the corner China finds itself in:
The impossible trinity says that a country cannot simultaneously have an open capital account, independent monetary policy, and stable tightly managed exchange rate. Some academics (such as Hélène Rey) argue that since capital controls are no longer as effective in the current day world, complete monetary policy independence is still not possible without some degree of exchange rate flexibility, even without a fully open capital account – or impossibly duality.
Regardless of whether it is an impossible trinity or duality, the fact is that in recent years, as a result of substantial capital controls relaxation, China has found it increasingly difficult to manage independent monetary policy while simultaneously maintaining a fixed exchange rate.
Whether the yuan is technically or fundamentally overvalued doesn’t really matter. China has reached the point in its growth cycle where it can no longer defend the yuan’s valuation against the USD without shedding reserves, something FT Alphaville readers may have heard us warning about since 2012. That was the moment it became obvious (to us at least) that something had changed in China. Enough external private debt had built up in the system to compromise the pegging regime unless it was accompanied with offsetting FX reserve dumps, or new capital inflows.
While it’s true FX reserves continued to build (chart below from Kit Juckes at SocGen), what was of greater interest was the overall UST position which — a better proxy for how many dollars are in the system — and the theoretical portion of those FX inflows which are coming into China on essentially leveraged terms: Read more
Things that are not infinite include… China’s FX reserves. Even at $3.7trn.
It’s an obvious point, but maybe the point is worth remaking.
From Soc Gen’s Wei Yao: Read more
It’s indeed a major correction, say Goldman, surprising precisely nobody:
Whilst there’s nothing like a Black Monday bloodbath in China to invigorate the bear case, it is worth bearing in mind that the Chinese stock market isn’t quite the NYSE.
Yes, Chinese investors have been turning to stock market investing at accelerating rates over the past decade, but despite all that growth, stock ownership is still the exception not the norm in China. And because it isn’t the norm, the feed through to the real economy is unlikely to be as significant as it would be in say, America, where every man and his dog is taught from birth to watch CNBC and to own a portfolio. Read more
As you’ve surely just seen, China has cut its reserve requirement ratio, by 50bps with effect from Sept 6, and its 1yr lending rate by 25bps to 4.6 per cent with immediate effect.
Markets will like this. And the timing suggests that the ongoing stock market puke did have something to do with the decision.
But there’s also certainly a broader rationale to these moves. Read more
Have a compulsory longer term, context heavy, chart which shows that the index is still well up over 1yr but down 8 per cent YTD and 42 per cent since June:
The obvious question now is, what’s next? For the stock market and for the economy. The actions taken with regard to the former will contain a non-zero amount of information about the latter — which, to be extra obvious, is the important bit. After all, for EM at least, China matter thiiiiiis much according to BofAML Read more
By Christopher Balding, Professor of Economics at Peking University, HSBC Business School, and blogger at Balding’s World.
The job of the modern economic and financial policy maker is a difficult one. Markets are being created at breakneck pace to trade incredible varieties of financial products and the complexity of major modern economies is dizzying. Considering the constraints of managing enormous economies and financial products, the most important asset of the economic regulator is not perfect decision making but credibility.
As China has battled a variety of financial pressures this year — from a falling stock market to capital outflows pressuring its US dollar peg — Beijing’s lack of a credible coordinated policy response worsened their public reception. Rather than articulate a clear vision of how to address a falling stock market and slowing economy and proceed to methodically execute that plan, Beijing swerves between conflicting announcements and less than credible positions that the market discounts. Read more
Some thought-provoking paragraphs on China this Friday from Stephen Lewis, chief economist, at ADM Investor Services International, regarding the reliability of the country’s jobs data. He starts with this useful reminder:
Of the ten conflicts in human history with the highest death tolls, five were civil wars in China. Chief among these was the Three Kingdoms War (184-280 CE) when up to 40 million are reckoned to have perished in military operations and from the destructive consequences of warfare. This is an enormous number, considering that the global population at that time is unlikely to have exceeded 400 million. More recently, the Taiping Rebellion (1850-1864) claimed more than 20 million lives while the civil war that brought the Communist Party to power in 1949 resulted in 7.5 million deaths, over and above the 20 million estimated to have been killed in the roughly contemporary Japanese invasion. This is not the history we were taught at school but Chinese leaders are well aware of these facts. When disorder breaks out in China, things turn very nasty indeed. It is best, therefore, to avoid disorder at almost any cost.
Jim Reid at Deutsche assesses the damage so far. As he says, this has something of a taper tantrum feel to it but seperating out China from Fed fear is a tough job even if given “that the odds of a September hike are fading again (32% this morning, down 16% over the last 48 hours)” it seems “China and the impact on EM is the overriding driver”.
With our emphasis:
One of the big problems with China’s FX move is that although they’ve ‘only’ seen a 3% currency fall (in the onshore Yuan) since their announcement last week, others have subsequently followed suit either deliberately or via market [and oil based] pressure. The following countries have seen their currency depreciate at least 4% since last Monday (and using last night’s closing prices): Kazakhstan (leading the way with a huge 26% devaluation following the removal of the trading band), Russia, Ghana, Guinea, Colombia, Belarus, Turkey, Malaysia and Algeria. In fact, if we extended the analysis to include those that have seen at least a 3% depreciation then the number of countries hits 17 and unsurprisingly all sit in the EM bracket.
An unspecified number of tenge (not excluding zero) to those who can spot when Kazakhstan decided to let go of its currency band:
A unicorn is a legendary mystical animal with a single spiralling horn that is both highly sought after and impossible to find.
In techland, however, it represents the hunt for something even more elusive: a start-up with the potential to become a multi-billion dollar company on the back of the winner-takes-all monopolistic eco-system superpower effect.
Given that unicorns are supposed to be rare, it’s weird there are so many of them these days. Read more
Nobody knows China like Michael Pettis, and his latest post on the RMB doesn’t disappoint.
Understandably we were feeling a bit chipper with our analysis following last week’s depreciation, until we read Pettis this morning.
The Beijing-based academic argues convincingly that the RMB is still under valued because there’s a big difference between a technical misvaluation and a fundamental one. Read more
Wanted: A go-getting, self starter with no appetite for tautology and with a mandate to fully count unemployment in the world’s second largest economy. Must leak to press if not allowed to report findings.
Remember Xi who must keep you employed? The idea that social stability, rather then employment per se, is what the Party really cares about. Remember also how the unemployment stats we and, very possibly, they are working with are a bit rubbish? And that it’s possible the Party will be reacting to problems rather than preempting them?
Well, an attempt by Shuaizhang Feng, Yingyao Hu and Robert Moffitt to add some clarity to China’s dodgy unemployment numbers raises some fresh questions about the Party’s control of the economy. Read more
Sensible sentences from Citi’s Buiter et al on China’s valuation shock (with our emphasis):
This decision by the PBOC is a significant event, even if its implications and motivations are not yet fully clear. It appears that the Chinese government has moved from operating a pretty stable peg to something closer to a managed float, raising questions about how strongly it will manage it. As liberalization proceeds, (sterilized) foreign exchange market intervention will effectively only work through signaling and announcement effects. However, ‘domestic’ interest rate policies, credit and other financial and/or fiscal policies are likely to gain strength as well as they affect the ‘market-determined’ exchange rates. As such, monetary policy and exchange rates will work in tandem as there is no such thing as a policy independent exchange rate, regardless of how freely it floats…
Late last week the Financial Stability Board completed its peer review of the Chinese financial market.
For anyone who’s ever wondered about the structure of China’s shadow banking industry or the evolution of the wealth management product sector the whole report really is worth a read.
But most interesting, especially given last week’s depreciation, was the following recommendation from the FSB:
The authorities should continue to promote a more diversified and resilient financial system by: (1) increasing reliance on market-based pricing mechanisms via the removal of implicit guarantees; and (2) further developing capital markets and an institutional investor base as an alternative pillar to bank financing.
Herein lies the crux of the challenge for China. Removing implicit guarantees and effective market subsidies. Read more
…so long as it catches value
We’ve already theorised that China depreciating the yuan against the dollar in stages will have helped to shake-out the short-term dollar leverage in the system before a Fed rate hike later this year.
But, as PRC Macro, a Hong-Kong based advisory, noted late last week, with dollar deposits at commercial banks still leaving the system, we may not be home-free on China’s private sector dollar and capital outflow exposure just yet:
Today the PBOC released foreign reserve data for July that provides evidence of an additional motive behind the Bank’s sudden devaluation of the RMB/ USD exchange rate earlier this week. Specifically, the outflow of foreign exchange from commercial banks – as shown by the net monthly change to foreign exchange deposits – gathered pace in July. On a month-over-month basis, net capital outflows increased from RMB 93 billion (US$ 15 billion) in June to RMB 257 billion (US$ 41 billion) in July, with total FX deposits down by 2% YoY. This decline to China’s foreign reserves also highlights the difficulties that the PBOC has faced where it comes to managing systemic liquidity and this may also have contributed to the timing of the Bank’s decision to devalue the RMB earlier this week.
Here follows the second in a series of posts explaining why this week’s RMB depreciation is akin to the Great China Money Market fund breaking the buck.
But first a disclaimer! Whilst our analysis errs to the view that the depreciation was driven by market forces and thus inevitable, that’s not to suggest China “the market economy” is bust or about to face a hard landing. We’re very specifically talking about the state-managed part of the external capital account.
So, let’s continue from where we left off, namely, the point when the commodity super-cycle was sending the message that for China to have its rebalancing cake and eat it some major global restructuring probably would have to take place. Read more
To understand what happened in China this week we think the best financial analogy for China’s management of its economy and its external capital account is this: think of it as a giant money market fund.
So when the currency was officially devalued three times, it was equivalent to the Great China Money Market (GCMM) fund “breaking the buck”, a rare event when presumed safe investments turn out to not be so safe as thought.
We’re going to explain what that means in two posts, the first of which is the extended history of China’s economic management needed to realise how the world got to this point in the first place. Read more
China weakened the renminbi fixing by 1.86 per cent overnight, an unexpected move followed by the biggest one-day change in the value of the renminbi since the country abandoned its dollar peg for a managed trading band.
There are two schools of thought on this: Either balance of payment problems are forcing China’s hand, or the move is just another step in the slow and benign process of capital liberalisation.
On the first, well hey, they would depreciate in the current environment wouldn’t they? Exports are weak, the economy is sputtering, and the stock market can’t stay up without the state introducing a ban on it going down.
Move to a free-floating currency system? Meh. This is just another desperate devaluation story in the style of Nigeria, Russia before them and even peg busting Saudi Arabia on the back of a hard-currency drought in the offshore FX market. (FT Alphaville has predicted this for like ages, yeah?). Read more
Can China, which has announced 24 separate policy measures since the start of July, save its stock markets through intervention?
To help think about ways to answer the question, Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou and team at JP Morgan have looked at two previous interventions by the authorities in Japan and Hong Kong.
Perhaps unsurprising, it depends. Read more
Estimates of how much cash China has flung at its stock market, in the hope that some sticks, vary.
As the FT says, the “government has not disclosed either the amount of rescue funds it has allocated to the coalition of state financial institutions — known as the “national team” — or how much of this total has already been invested.”
But all estimates tend to settle, roughly, on different quantities of “lots”.
First up then, a Goldman note out on Wednesday which estimates that said ‘national team’ “has potentially spent Rmb860-900bn [some $144bn] to support the stock market in June-July 2015… equivalent to 1.6%/2.2% of total market cap/free float market cap”:
Policy banks are apparently the new local local government investment vehicles — and they’re being used to push more stimulus out into a struggling economy. Via infra investment. Shocking, we know.
A suggested, updated, investment-driven-policy-schematic from Credit Suisse:
Or: Read more
Pragmatic sentences about the Chinese slowdown are often in short supply, so…
In our view, the worst thing about China’s slowdown is not the risk of some kind of cataclysmic economic meltdown or financial crisis but that – in sector after sector – the investable ways to “play” China shrink to the local names on the right side.
Speaking before the investigation [into Avic Heibao, a listed manufacturing subsidiary of Mr Lin's company Avic, by the securities regulator on suspicion of illegal and irregular share transactions] was revealed, Mr Lin cast his company’s actions as part of a heroic struggle against foreign aggression.
“This stock disaster was a premeditated plot, a well-prepared case of malicious short selling and part of a powerful, tumultuous economic war launched against China,” Mr Lin said in an interview with state media. “The war launched against [the Chinese stock market] is an attack on the five-starred red [Chinese national] flag.”
In an editorial he penned for a state-run nationalist newspaper, Mr Lin also blamed US plots for the problems in the Japanese economy in the early 1990s and for the 1997 Asian financial crisis.
… and more down to distortions in China’s own markets. Now, particularly, those distortions introduced by China’s powers-that-be while trying to put a floor under the slide and target a level of 4,500 for the index, using a raft of measures. Read more