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Friday, January 6, 2017, 16:02

PBoC hikes yuan mid-point by most since 2005

By Agencies

China's yuan traded in the offshore market is set for its biggest weekly gain on Friday, hovering around two-month highs after the authorities were said to have pushed up overnight borrowing costs to discourage bearish bets on the currency.

Both onshore and offshore yuan have been rallying this week, driven predominantly by a blow-up in yuan borrowing costs offshore and tighter liquidity. The spread between the two spot rates widened to its highest since 2010.

China's yuan traded in the offshore market is hovering around two-month highs, setting for its biggest weekly gain on Friday

Chinese authorities are keen to deter speculation in the currency and analysts and traders suspect policymakers have sought to prevent it from weakening to the 7-per-dollar level ahead of US President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration on Jan 20.

READ MORE: China enhances forex scrutiny to target illegal practices

Traders said the market had long held a strong "one-way" expectation of depreciation in the yuan and the rally in the currency over the week was the authorities' attempt to alter such views.

"I don't think the volatility in the yuan so far this week will reverse the trend of depreciation. But the yuan is at least unlikely to have another rapid fall ahead of the Lunar New Year," said a Shanghai-based trader at a foreign bank, referring to the week-long holiday starting at the end of January.

The People's Bank of China (PBOC) set the official midpoint for the yuan, which is allowed to move in a tight band around that guidance rate, at 6.8668 per dollar prior to the market opening, 639 pips or 0.9 percent, firmer than the previous fixing. That made it the largest upward move since the yuan was revalued and taken off a fixed dollar peg in July 2005.

By 0706 GMT, onshore spot yuan was trading at 6.9334 per dollar, down 0.7 percent from late Thursday. But the Chinese currency is on track to log its best week in more than a month.

Onshore yuan's retreat on Friday was a result of increasing dollar demand by companies after the US currency eased off 14-year highs, said a trader at a Chinese bank.


Interbank rates for the offshore yuan have been surging this week, suggesting China is keen to squeeze speculators by making it prohibitively expensive to short-sell the yuan. Yuan liquidity conditions in Hong Kong, the main offshore yuan hub, have been tightening.

READ MORE: Yuan's fluctuations 'not undermining' long-term stability

Overnight yuan interbank rates in Hong Kong were fixed at 61.333 percent on Friday, up sharply from 38.335 percent on Thursday, while yuan deposit rates implied by the offshore forward market ballooned to 112 percent before easing.

Some of the pressure on yuan funding has also been on account of a drying up of yuan deposits in Hong Kong as the currency fell 6.6 percent in 2016, its biggest annual fall since 1994.

China's currency reserves data due this week is also expected to show reserves are close to falling below the critical US$3 trillion figure, which would partly explain the authorities' desire to stem capital outflows and bets that the currency will keep depreciating.

The offshore yuan, or CNH, has risen about 2.5 percent since Tuesday, with its gains over Wednesday and Thursday being the biggest two-day gains since its introduction in 2010.

Its rally rippled across major currency markets, causing the US dollar to give up some of its recent gains against the euro and yen.

Still, few seem to be altering their expectations for a weaker yuan in the coming months.

"We believe the surge in the CNH is not sustainable," Gao Qi, FX strategist at Scotiabank in Singapore, wrote in a note.

Gao expects the yuan to depreciate about 5 percent against the dollar this year amid market worries over potential political and trade conflicts between the United States and China after Trump takes office.

The Chinese currency was not obviously over-valued, and the appreciation of the US dollar has its upper limit, the China Securities Journal said in a commentary.

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