From Goldman today:
…we shift to an outright negative view on the RMB, in line with this week’s Asia Views and our bearish RMB forecast… there is a weak link in China’s management of its currency.
To be sure, the government has clearly communicated a shift in focus to a trade-weighted currency basket, de-emphasizing the signal that the bilateral exchange rate versus the Dollar carries. But domestically, the only signal that matters is $/CNY, so that higher fixings could easily re-ignite capital flight, as households and firms anticipate a faster pace of depreciation.
And for markets:
…Even though global markets have so far taken weaker fixings in their stride, one regularity over the past year has been that the SPX has fallen sharply within a week or two of $/CNY fixing meaningfully higher, as focus on capital outflows and RMB depreciation has built.
We believe that the risk of a repeat is rising, which in turn could have knock-on effects for the pace of Fed tightening and Dollar strength ahead. We call this the “RMB-FOMC Monetary Policy Loop,” where the importance of the bilateral $/CNY rate domestically may slow the pace of Fed monetary policy normalization, which our US team has also highlighted.”
… with the DAX and NKY marching in lock-step (Exhibit 4). With the Fed approaching another hike over the summer (our US team puts a 70 percent probability on this), the risk of a repeat is growing, which via financial conditions could then loop back into US monetary policy.
And the response?
From the perspective of China’s policy makers, there is an implicit trade-off between the pace of reserve losses and keeping the exchange rate stable in trade-weighted terms. By way of illustration, capital outflows during the first quarter were -$155bn according to the balance of payments, so that they could amount to -$600bn for the year. Even allowing for continued improvement in the current account, this means that reserve losses could run between -$200bn and -$300bn this year and next, after reserve losses of -$343bn in 2015.
We remain in the camp that the level of China’s reserves (currently around $3,200bn) is more than sufficient to deal with this pace of drawdown, but – realistically speaking – we see a good chance that markets will again speculate over the need for a one-off devaluation, even if the message from policy makers has been that this is not on the cards.
So, expect more capital account tightening. Then there’s the Mining GFC:
The Fed remains a wild card in all of this. Our base case has been that some tightening in financial conditions, including via the Dollar, is needed to offset strong underlying momentum in growth and inflation. But if financial conditions tighten again on an SPX fall, there is a risk the Fed could again shift dovish, in what we are calling the “RMB-FOMC Monetary Policy Loop,” an implicit recognition that US monetary policy has spillovers to China, which is struggling with the legacy of its bilateral exchange rate peg to the Dollar. The sensitivity of the SPX to RMB weakness is thus something of a stabilizer for the Dollar bloc, potentially preventing the Fed from moving too quickly. That said, our base case remains that the US economy is strong enough to withstand a tightening cycle that will take the Fed funds target to 3.4 percent in Q3 2019.
That’s an outright bull case. US rates at 3.4% would see the dollar index skyrocket and wipe out emerging markets. The base case is that Fed is being lured into a commodity price bull trap and it has a handful of hikes only left in its kit bag before it all falls apart.
So, for Australia:
- less Chinese property buyers;
- lower commodity prices as China’s own production increases its competitiveness;
- increasing risk of stock rout and
- lower Aussie dollar.
He is also a former gold trader and economic commentator at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, the ABC and Business Spectator. He is the co-author of The Great Crash of 2008 with Ross Garnaut and was the editor of the second Garnaut Climate Change Review.
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