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?
Not so bad this month, particularly when you take into account expectations and the headline $94bn fall we saw in August.
And here’s that paragraph, from JPM’s Niko Panigirtzoglou and team, with our emphasis:
- First, we disagree with the description that FX reserve depletion is QE in reverse. This is because the FX reserve depletion that is happening currently is not an exogenous policy action but represents a policy reaction to capital flows out of EM. But the capital that leaves EM does not disappear from the financial system. In fact, the capital that flows out of EM could find its way back into DM bonds. For example three major manifestations of capital flowing out of EM are 1) the reduction of dollar denominated debt previously issued by EM corporates, 2) the accumulation of dollar deposits by domestic EM corporates or other entities who try to protect themselves against further dollar appreciation, and 3) the withdrawal of EM currency (e.g. Renminbi deposits) by foreign investors who in turn convert them back into dollar deposits.
Everyone has been trying to figure out why the PBoC shed a record $94bn in FX reserves in August.
But did you know their own spokesman has been offering an explanation to the market directly? 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
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
We’ll tear ourselves away from Greece to point out that Chinese markets are totally normal.
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.
But as of Sunday night there is the beginning of a delineation as the PBoC published its draft plan for setting up a real deposit insurance scheme in China. The highlights from Bernstein: Read more
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
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
Indeed, nobody expects the PBoC…
But, despite Friday’s surprise announcement, as SocGen’s Wei Yao says: “due to the further rate liberalisation announced at the same time, there is actually no de facto rate cut.”
She continues, (with our emphasis): 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
Monetary policy probably not so much.
It’s a rare thing these days to see monetary policy taking the back seat but according to the WSJ an ever more influential PBoC is winning the argument against cutting interest rates and in favour of smaller more targeted measures like RRR cuts: Read more
Something’s afoot in the world of RMB.
The renminbi fell on Tuesday by the most in a single day since 2012, dropping 0.35 per cent against the dollar in the onshore market by midday in Shanghai, and 0.7 per cent since Wednesday, as the FT reported.
The market has put this down to an imminent change in China’s foreign exchange regime. The narrative is that the PBOC is preparing to widen the trading band ahead of flotation and is spooking the market intentionally, so that it realises that the RMB goes down as well as up, and that carry-trades are no free lunch.
Not everyone is as convinced. Read more
The PBOC conducted a 255 bn yuan ($42 bn) liquidity operation on Tuesday, causing money market rates — which had been running very high — to drop significantly.
As Bloomberg noted:
The seven-day repurchase rate, a gauge of interbank funding availability, dropped 88 basis points to 5.44 percent in Shanghai, according to a daily fixing compiled by the National Interbank Funding Center. It surged 153 basis points yesterday, the most in seven months. The Shanghai Composite Index climbed 0.9 percent today, after closing below 2,000 yesterday for the first time since July.
Starting today we get what is basically the first formal step to a fully fledged market based deposit rate system from China (honourable mention of course to those more informal weapons of mass ponzi). It’s been coming and the move doesn’t effect corporates or individuals, but in the context of the Shibor spike, deposit pressure and the post-plenum reform blush it’s very worth noting.
From UBS’s Wang Tao:
[The PBOC] took the long-expected step toward liberalizing deposit rate on December 8, announcing that effective from December 9, depository financial institutions (banks) are allowed to issue large-denomination negotiable certificates of deposit, i.e., the so-called interbank CDs.
Some are betting that Beijing will eventually endorse Bitcoin. This week Lightspeed Venture Partners of San Francisco and a China-based sister fund announced a $5m investment in BTCChina…
– Financial Times, November 22
The People’s Bank of China even did a Q&A on Thursday to explain why it’s more or less forbidden the Chinese financial system from dabbling in Bitcoin… Read more
By Paul J. Davies, the FT’s Asia financial correspondent.
After trying to work out how big China’s bad debt problem might be, many people still turn round and point to the country’s mammoth foreign exchange reserves as its great get-out clause. Read more