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Senior IMF official sees no need for yuan intervention

Wang Yanfei
Updated: Nov 23,2016 11:01 AM     China Daily

The recent fluctuations in the value of the yuan are largely in line with nation’s economic fundamentals, suggesting no urgent need for an intervention by the central bank in the foreign exchange market, a senior official with the International Monetary Fund said in Beijing on Nov 22.

David Lipton, the IMF’s deputy managing director, attributed the recent depreciation to a stronger dollar, driven by the US election and possible interest rate hikes in the near future.

The yuan’s exchange rate reached an eight-year low in the past several days, but when compared with other emerging market peers, the currency has not seen a major adjustment, according to Lipton.

The central parity rate of the yuan, set by the central bank, stood at 6.8779 on Nov 22, ticking up from 6.8985 the previous day, following 12 straight days of weakening.

In the meantime, the yuan exchange rate composite index on Nov 18 strengthened by 0.21 percent against a basket of currencies, compared with a week earlier, according to China Foreign Exchange Trading System data, which measures the yuan’s performance against a basket of 13 currencies.

Lipton applauded Beijing’s efforts to move ahead with reforms to peg the currency to a basket of currencies, allowing for more fluctuation.

“The People’s Bank of China has been giving more consideration to a basket of currencies instead of just tying to the dollar,” said Lipton, in response to concerns about sustained depreciation of the yuan and repeated claims made by incoming president Donald Trump, who accused China of manipulating the yuan’s exchange rate.

The IMF encourages China to continue to implement exchange rate reforms, allowing for more flexibility, according to Lipton.

Addressing the future impact of Trump’s presidency, Lipton said it is too early to speculate.

Sharing similar perspectives, Liang Hong, chief economist with China International Capital Corporation, said in a research note on Nov 21 that it will take time to see how policy will change when Trump assumes the office.

“The market has been gradually getting accustomed to Trump’s election win,” said Liang. “Investors will reassess investment and economic outlooks after Trump takes his presidency, possibly leading to greater fluctuations of the value of the dollar.”

Liang expects depreciation pressure on the yuan will continue for a while, mainly driven by the strong dollar, but there is a small likelihood of seeing a major depreciation of the yuan in the medium-to-long term.

Lian Ping, chief economist with the Bank of Communications, also ruled out the possibility of a sustained yuan depreciation, as economic fundamentals remain unchanged.

Cai Fang, vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that it is good enough for China to see a 6.2 percent annual economic growth rate next year.

“Risks hidden in the economy, including the piling up of debt risks, are more concerning than hitting a high growth number,” said Cai.

Moody’s Investors Service Inc on Tuesday highlighted the slow deleveraging process in the 2017 outlook for nonfinancial corporates, amid continued robust GDP growth in China in 2017 and stabilizing commodity prices.

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