Friday, 13 November 2009

Renminbi peg draws criticism

It is not just the US that has a problem with the renminbi's peg to the US dollar. From Bloomberg:

President Barack Obama may find on his Asian visit that began today that discontent about China’s currency peg to the dollar isn’t confined to Washington’s lawmakers and business lobbyists.

From Mumbai-based Alok Industries Ltd., which supplies Wal- Mart Stores Inc. with textiles, to Bangkok-based semiconductor packager Hana Microelectronics Pcl, Asian companies say Chinese rivals have an unfair advantage because of the yuan-dollar link. The dollar has declined 14 percent in the past year against the currencies of six major trading partners...

“It’s just outrageous, the impact on their neighbors and on relatively poor countries,” said Simon Johnson, chief economist at the International Monetary Fund in 2007 and 2008 and now a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

As Obama seeks to push the Group of 20 goal of rebalancing the world economy from excessive U.S. consumer spending and Asian exports, South Korea’s won gained 8 percent against the yuan in the past six months. Japan’s yen has risen 6 percent, while India’s rupee gained 6 percent and the Thai baht 4 percent. The yuan is a denomination of China’s currency, the renminbi.

But the renminbi's peg to the US dollar also creates a problem for China. Again from Bloomberg:

China is facing the biggest challenge to its currency policy since the start of the global recession as economists warn the peg to the dollar risks causing an asset bubble.

As recently as Nov. 9, People’s Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan said he didn’t feel much pressure to let the yuan rise, deflecting calls for an increase as exports start to recover and President Barack Obama prepares to discuss the issue in Beijing next week. China’s stance risks adding to liquidity after credit surged by $1.3 trillion this year, according to Fred Hu at Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

China’s sales of yuan to keep it fixed to the dollar contributed to a 29 percent jump in money supply, and the peg helped spur more than $150 billion in speculative funds from overseas in the past six months, China International Capital Corp. says. Record apartment prices and a 74 percent climb in the benchmark stock index this year are prompting warnings that the policy is inflating asset prices excessively.

Sometimes, though, it may be more convenient to blame the usual suspects for asset bubbles. From Bloomberg:

The Federal Reserve’s policy of keeping interest rates near zero is fueling a wave of speculative capital that may cause the next global crisis, Hong Kong’s leader said.

“I’m scared and leaders should look out and watch out,” said Donald Tsang, chief executive of the Chinese city, said in Singapore today. “America is doing exactly what Japan did last time,” he said, adding that the Bank of Japan’s zero interest rate policy contributed to the Asian financial crisis and U.S. mortgage meltdown...

“We have a U.S. dollar carry trade at the moment,” Tsang, 65, said in a speech where leaders of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum are gathering for a weekend summit. The carry trade is where investors borrow cheaply in one currency and use the funds to invest in other currencies.

To be fair, most central banks are keeping interest rates very low and are contributing to some extent or other to global asset price appreciation. The US, China and Japan tend to be blamed more simply because they are big.

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