EconFact 3/21 – RMB FX WTF?

Uh Oh

Uh Oh

The other big story in the Emerging Market (EM) world aside from the conflict in Ukraine/Russian conflict is the changing nature of the Chinese economy. The 2013 3rd Plenum, a meeting of Communist Party’s Central Committee, seemed to suggest a more market-driven philosophy to guiding China’s economy moving forward having massive consequences for China going forward. This week, I’ll be focusing on China.

So far, like other aspects of the Chinese economy, the RMB, has been state-controlled. China’s currency has been pegged to the US dollar at roughly 8 RMB to the dollar. Since exports are a large party of the Chinese economy – this matters greatly; a cheaper RMB (also known as Yuan/CNY) means cheaper, more competitive exports. However, currencies tend to appreciate with more exports, that is, with more Chinese exports in the global market, they should rise in price but the Chinese government has kept the currency artificially low by acquiring foreign reserves and thus masking the market value of the RMB for some time.

In 2005, under pressure from trading partners, China moved to a “managed float” system where the currency was allowed to have more volatile appreciation and the currency moved from 8 – 6.8 RMB/Dollar. The Chinese government stabilized the currency in 2008 due to the financial crisis but resumed appreciation trend in June 2010. During those times, daily volatility of the currency was limited at 0.5% per day.

In 2012 daily volatility moved to 1% and now it’s announced that 2% band for the RMB is possible. This is seen as a move to internationalize the RMB and for it to move closer to its market price. This move has already seen making a huge impact in the FX market (see chart).