December 6, 2016
Rumors swirled on social media on Tuesday that China's currency dropped sharply in overnight trade, but the purported move may have been an isolated hiccup from some providers.
Some currency data providers were showing that the yuan tumbled, with the dollar fetching as much as 7.49 yuan in overnight trade. It wasn't clear if the data were indicating the offshore yuan or the onshore currency, but the onshore currency does not trade overnight. That would have been an 8.8 percent rise for the currency pair from the onshore close of 6.8830, according to Reuters data.
China's central bank does not allow the currency to move more than 2 percent from its daily fixing in onshore trade. While policymakers can not closely control offshore trade of the currency, it usually remains relatively close to its onshore counterpart.
Data charts on Google and currency-data provider and money transfer service XE showed the short-lived blip. Google confirmed that the figure was a bug and that it was fixing it. In its Finance section, Google's disclaimers state that it can't guarantee the accuracy of foreign-exchange rates and advises confirming rates before making transactions.
An email to XE sent outside office hours wasn't immediately returned.
Dow Jones reported that U.K.-based brokerage and data provider ICAP was the source for the data. A call to ICAP's Singapore office went unanswered and it didn't immediately return an emailed request for comment.
Google's data chart indicated that the data source was data provider SIX Financial Information. A call to SIX's Singapore office went unanswered and an emailed request for comment wasn't immediately returned.
Analysts generally indicated to CNBC that they hadn't seen any sign of the drop. Reuters data didn't show anything close, indicating that the offshore dollar/yuan's high for the year was at 6.9650 and the onshore yuan's was at 6.9210.
Sean Yokota, head of Asia strategy at SEB, told CNBC that people were sharing a screenshot on Chinese social media platform WeChat showing a mispricing in Google data showing the dollar was fetching 7.4 yuan.
He noted that China's policymakers would likely want to avoid a devaluation of the currency. Indeed, analysts have recently noted that policymakers have appeared to slow the yuan's fall against the dollar as the greenback surged since the surprise U.S. election win of Donald Trump.
Similarly, Richard Yetsenga, chief economist at ANZ, told CNBC that while there was a lot of chatter, it would be "quite dramatic" if the 7.48 figure were to turn out to be accurate, but he added that it was hard to imagine at this stage.
The apparent hiccup didn't appear to affect trading in the currency on Tuesday. The People's Bank of China (PBOC) set the yuan midpoint at 6.8575 against the dollar on Tuesday, suggesting a stronger yuan compared with a fix of 6.887 on Monday.
In onshore trade, the dollar was fetching 6.8654 yuan at 10:23 a.m. HK/SIN, the Chinese currency's strongest against the greenback since mid-November. Offshore, the dollar was fetching 6.8691 yuan.
In the wake of the Trump win, the yuan fell to nearly eight year lows against the dollar, touching its weakest since at least January 2009, during the global financial crisis, with analysts suggesting the slide had more to do with the dollar's strength. Some noted that, based on currency movements within the trade-weighted basket, policymakers appeared to be supporting the yuan somewhat.
The Chinese currency likely received another fillip from a surge on Monday in the cost of borrowing the offshore yuan. Overnight Hibor, or the Hong Kong interbank offered rate, for the offshore yuan jumped to 12.38 percent on Monday from 7.16 percent on Friday. On Tuesday, the rate retraced some of the surge, to around 6.17 percent.
Monday's sharp rise made it more expensive for traders to short the Chinese currency.
Stephen Innes, senior trader at OANDA, said in a note Monday that the higher rates were discouraging short-term yuan trades.
"Dealers are in little mood to challenge state-owned banks dollar-selling flows, nor the exorbitant short-term yuan funding rates," signaling that the market was conceding the dollar/yuan pair's top was likely at 6.90 through year-end, he said, adding that traders were now looking to other vehicles to play a negative regional bias.
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