by George Lei, Bloomberg Markets Live Commentator and analyst
The Chinese yuan is on track for the first weekly slide in more than two months, despite a much lower dollar and good news on the trade front. That’s a tell-tale sign of how pessimistic market sentiment is and may only reinforce expectations that yuan’s downtrend is here to stay.
The Chinese currency has lost 1% so far this week in offshore trading and 0.7% onshore. While the drop itself doesn’t seem very remarkable, the context is key: the yuan couldn’t hold on to its Monday rally amid news of possible US tariff removals. It also failed to benefit from a 1.3% weekly decline in the dollar index.
The last time a weaker greenback couldn’t help at all was in March: the dollar index lost 0.9% in the week ending March 18, while the onshore yuan dropped 0.34% and its offshore counterpart declined 0.14%. Since then, the Chinese currency has weakened more than 5.5%. Only the Turkish lira, Argentine peso and Hungarian forint lost more among 24 emerging-market peers tracked by Bloomberg.
Following a brief rebound from May 13 to 24, the offshore yuan is sliding once again and is now poised to revisit 6.80 support. A breach may open up path toward year-to-date low at 6.8380, last seen on May 13, when the dollar index found its recent top. Further losses could send the currency toward 6.90, a level last seen in August 2020.
The discord between China’s top leaders over whether to prioritize Covid control or economic growth is paralyzing the implementation of policy responses, according to eight senior local government officials and financial bureaucrats. It may also amplify the negative sentiment toward broader Chinese assets and weigh heavily on the yuan, independent of what the dollar does.
On Thursday, China’s trade-weighted yuan fell below 100 for the first time in seven month, according to a Bloomberg replica of the CFETS RMB index that tracks the exchange rate against 24 peers. Fidelity International and Credit Agricole CIB both predicted more downside for the trade-weighted gauge, with the dollar-yuan pair possibly testing 7 level in the coming months.
“China and the US are moving in different directions and I don’t see PBOC stand in the way of depreciation,” said David Loevinger, Los Angeles-based managing director at TCW Group Inc. and a former China specialist at the US Treasury. He said the big selloff is over and the next 6- to 12-month view is a gradually weaker yuan.