China’s yuan continues its descent amid fears of harmful U.S. trade war
BEIJING — China allowed its currency to fall further Tuesday and accused Washington of destroying the global economic order, fuelling fears about increasing damage from their trade war.
The yuan declined to 7.0562 to the U.S. dollar before strengthening to 7.0297 in the afternoon. That came a day after Beijing sent financial markets tumbling by allowing the currency to fall to an 11-year low, breaking through the politically sensitive level of seven to the dollar.
The Trump administration responded Monday by declaring that China improperly manipulates the yuan’s value. That opens the way to possible new U.S. penalties on top of tariff hikes already imposed in a fight over Beijing’s trade surplus and technology policies.
The ruling Communist Party’s main newspaper accused Washington of “deliberately destroying the rules-based international order” and jeopardizing economic co-operation. It didn’t mention Monday’s currency decision but accused the Trump administration of using American families as hostages in trade talks.
“One cannot understand how such a big, internationally influential country could be so irresponsible,” the People’s Daily said.
The Chinese central bank denied improperly manipulating the exchange rate, saying the yuan’s decline was driven by market forces. On its website, the People’s Bank of China called the U.S. decision “protectionist behaviour” that will have “a major impact on global finance.”
U.S. President Donald Trump rattled investors with last week’s surprise announcement of punitive tariffs on an additional $300 billion of Chinese imports, effective Sept. 1. That came after a round of talks on resolving their tariff war ended in Shanghai with no indication of a deal.
“The latest U.S. move will likely harden China’s position in trade negotiations,” Tao Wang of UBS said in a report.
U.S. officials complain that a weak yuan — also known as the renminbi, or “people’s money” — makes China’s export prices unfairly low, hurting foreign competitors and swelling Beijing’s trade surplus.
Washington’s latest moves may be “evidence that the U.S. administration may not really want to reach a trade deal soon,” Wang said. “We believe there is an increasing risk to a delay or cancellation of the planned trade talks.”
Asian stock markets fell for a second day. China’s main index lost 1.6 per cent and Australia’s was down 2.4 per cent. Markets in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul also retreated.
“Equities are slumping. They will slump more,” Rabobank’s Michael Every said in a report. “Worry about global trade flows, as a stronger USD rumbles through the real economy and U.S.-China divorce smashes supply chains.”
The Chinese central bank governor, Yi Gang, tried to reassure investors, promising in a statement late Monday to stick to commitments “not to use exchange rates for competitive purposes.”
The central bank is “committed to maintaining the basic stability” of the yuan “at a reasonable and balanced level,” Yi said.
The People’s Bank of China sets the exchange rate each morning and allows the yuan to fluctuate by two per cent against the dollar during the day. The central bank can buy or sell currency — or order commercial banks to do so — to dampen price movements.
On Tuesday, the yuan’s starting exchange rate was set at 6.9683. That would allow the currency to weaken to as much as 7.100 while staying within the two per cent trading band.
The dollar’s unexpected strength against the yuan could have global repercussions, according to Nick Wall of Merian Global Investors. He said many foreign borrowers need to repay debts in dollars that might become harder to obtain.
“The risks of a further dollar squeeze and more foreign exchange volatility are now quite high,” Wall said in a report.
China has vowed to avoid “competitive devaluation” to boost exports by making them less expensive abroad. But regulators are trying to make the state-controlled exchange rate more responsive to market forces, which are pushing the yuan down.
Trump’s tariff hikes have put downward pressure on the yuan by fuelling fears that economic growth might weaken. A lower yuan helps exporters cope with tariffs of up to 25 per cent imposed by Trump on billions of dollars of Chinese goods.
China’s yuan declined to 7.0562 to the U.S. dollar on Tuesday before strengthening to 7.0297 in the afternoon. That came a day after Beijing sent financial markets tumbling by allowing the currency to fall to an 11-year low, breaking through the politically sensitive level of seven to the dollar.