China has become, to a large extent, a tale of two property markets. There’s Tier-1 — which is nutty — and, as flagged in the headline above, the rest.
From Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s China team, with our emphasis:
The BIS’s latest Quarterly Review is chock full of useful observations about the counterintuitive effects of negative interest rates, electronic trading on fixed income markets and wealth inequality on monetary policy. Do read the whole thing.
If you don’t have time… cast your eyes directly to Robert McCauley and Chang Shu’s contribution on dollars and renminbi flows out of China.
McCauley (in particular) has been tracking the story of international dollar liabilities and their monetary effects for some time. He was also one of the first to draw attention to the Chinese dollar debt load. As a rule any research with his byline is a must read. Read more
By Morgan Stanley, do obviously click to enlarge:
Are shrinking Chinese government FX reserves a sign of capital flight or are they just a public-to-private asset swap?
Here’s a chart from Nomura’s Asia Insights team to mull over whilst considering that question. Pay attention to the net foreign asset entry line in particular:
REUPDATING because this seems good from HSBC:
On Friday afternoon, Bloomberg News reported that the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) is raising some banks’ reserve requirement ratio (RRR) to curb their lending behaviour. This report rattled investors’ nerves, given that it was inconsistent with China’s weak macro-economic outlook. In an effort to pursue better communication with the market, the central bank issued a statement on Friday evening stating that it has reviewed banks’ lending behaviour in 2015 and decided that a small number of banks no longer qualified for the lower differentiated RRR. However, it also added that some banks, which previously did not enjoy the differentiated RRR, have pursued prudent lending and are now qualified for the lower RRR. The effective date of the latest adjustment is 25 February 2016 (Thursday). Clearly, the initial media report was “lopsided”. We are of the view that the impact of the adjustment is likely to be insignificant for the money market. More importantly, the central bank’s proactive clarification of the media report, along with the recent decision to permanently hold open market operations (OMOs) on a daily basis, underscores its strong desire to anchor money market rates…
Updating at top because apparently PBoC governor Zhou Xiaochuan hasn’t heard about this selective RRR increase. That’s the same Zhou who is keen to up the comms capacity at the central bank. We’ll update again when we/ the PBoC get some clarity.
Which is sad, but at least he’s talking and talking at length.
Before we get to that though, it’s worth having a read of George Magnus and Eric Burroughs on Chinese capital outflows, reserves and the country’s ongoing FX trilemma — China cannot “pursue more than two of an independent monetary policy, a fixed exchange rate, and free capital movements simultaneously”. They’re good catch ups on where China is now and the prospects of a float, devaluation or increasing capital controls.
It’s also broadly what PBoC governor Zhou discussed, among other things, in a lengthy interview to Caixin over the last few days — after a long period silence — and a transcript of that interview is now pixelated and ready for your eyeballs.
We thought we’d aid that eyeballing and pick out some sections of the interview and put a summary of sorts near the bottom. It’s best to skip down to there if you’ve already read the full thing. The extracts are chunky, as was the interview — which you could maybe read as some 10,000 words of PBoC versus the speculators. Read more
The man who knows about the size of central bank reserves needed to defend domestic economic stability says this on Thursday at an economic forum in Sri Lanka (via Bloomberg):
“China has a major adjustment problem,” Soros said. “I would say it amounts to a crisis. When I look at the financial markets there is a serious challenge which reminds me of the crisis we had in 2008.”
Which is apropos because, via Reuters, on Thursday:
China FX reserves fall $512.66 bln in 2015, biggest annual drop on record – RTRS
BEIJING, Jan 7 (Reuters) – China’s foreign exchange reserves, the world’s largest, fell $107.9 billion in December to $3.33 trillion, the biggest monthly drop on record, central bank data showed on Thursday. The December figure missed market expectations of $3.40 trillion, according to a Reuters poll. China’s foreign exchange reserves fell $512.66 billion in 2015, the biggest annual drop on record. The value of its gold reserves stood at $60.19 billion at the end of December, up from $59.52 billion at the end of November, the People’s Bank of China said on its website. Gold reserves stood at 56.66 million fine troy ounces at the end of December, up from 56.05 million at end-November.
“Hold on, did we mean to create all of these quasi central banks?”
“Errr, I suppose? We certainly decided to lay out that moral hazard blanket, remember? And we must have kn…”
“Yeah. Yeah. You’re right. We planned this. Must have done”
– China’s policy makers, probably never.
And from Michael Pettis’s latest note, with our emphasis:
Almost all credit was being treated, it seemed, as if it were sovereign credit. This mattered for a lot of obvious reasons, but Rodney Jones, who runs Wigram Capital and helped organize the seminars, made what I thought was a very interesting point. At the extreme, he pointed out, much of the short-term paper issued in China was, in the eyes of investors, a lot like PBoC bills. They were liquid, short-term money substitutes with little to no credit risk. Did it make sense, he wondered, to think of China as an economy with potentially thousands of mini-central banks, all issuing nearmoney instruments, and if so, how might we model the monetary and economic impact?
And here’s that paragraph, from JPM’s Niko Panigirtzoglou and team, with our emphasis:
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
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
Most of us know it as shadow banking. Others refer to it as non-bank lending. But a whole new nomenclature — “market-based financing” — is growing in popularity, making the whole thing sound a lot less shadowy, rightly or wrongly.
Nathan Sheets, Under Secretary for International Affairs at the Treasury, in any case urged us to call it that when he spoke about the phenomenon in a speech earlier this year, a sentiment that has also been echoed by the Financial Stability Board.
We refer to this because a similar rebranding effort is currently going on in the world of P2P lenders, many of whom now prefer to be described as operating in the sphere of “marketplace lending“. Furthermore, some analysts we’ve spoken to don’t consider P2P lenders to be shadow banking institutions at all. Some simply call this new source of financing “internet funds”. Read more
… By the notorious PBoC?
To be clear, the issue here is falling M0 in China.
SocGen’s China watcher in chief Wei Yao suggests that this is perhaps more important to real growth than the normally fixated-upon M2. Read more
Another BoAML FX observation on Thursday, this by way of Claudio Piron, emerging Asia FI/FX strategist, and his team.
On the analysts’ radar this week, the continuing risk of CNY depreciation, and in particular this chart:
Some cut out and keep from Morgan Stanley:
Clearly there are incentives for China to join the currency wars in earnest.
The RMB is up 6 per cent in Nominal Effective Exchange Rate terms since August 2014 with, say SocGen, the JPY, EUR, KRW and RUB the top contributors, accounting for 1.9pt, 1.3pt, 0.5pt and 0.4pt of the appreciation respectively. Honourable mention to the USD, naturally, against which the RMB is up 0.5 per cent.
Well, kinda. Or that was the assumption ever since the closure of Hainan Development Bank in the 1990s, when household deposits were made whole courtesy of the fiscal chequebook and an implicit guarantee was born, at least.
The first rule of currency wars is: you always talk about currency wars.
The second rule is: you can always find one to talk about if you look hard enough.
This month’s FX war location of choice is Asia, and here with its proximate cause is BNP Paribas (our emphasis): Read more
This is FT Alphaville's look at what degree of control China has over the shenanigans occurring in its interbank markets. Is this an exercise in domination by the PBoC or a demonstration of just how little sway it actually has?
More on that Friday PBoC rate cut — and just as China goes ahead and cuts its 14-day repo operation rate by another 20bp to 3.20 per cent too. That move on Tuesday, according to Nomura, suggests that the PBoC will continue to ease monetary policy… which would be true to form.
As Barc note, “the policy rate cut suggests that China is once again following the typical sequence in a monetary easing cycle – the pace of CNY appreciation is often slowed in advanced, followed later by the same directional moves in the policy rate and banks’ required reserve ratio.” Read more
The People’s Bank of China likes to act unexpectedly. And Friday’s surprise announcement of a Chinese rate cut only confirms that being unexpected is indeed the PBOC’s preferred communications strategy.
As Reuters noted, this is the first Chinese rate cut in two years and lowers the benchmark lending rate by 40 basis points to 5.6 per cent. One-year benchmark deposit rates were lowered by a smaller 25 basis points.
But, as Marc Ostwald at ADM Investor Services International commented in an email, the timing of this move looks to be as much about the sharp appreciation of the Chinese currency versus the yen as the fact that China’s economy is experiencing difficulties, with both Chinese CPI and PPI remaining very benign. Read more
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