【英语财经】分析:人民币止跌的机会 Renminbi bulls seize on hopes for economy

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2014-6-6 06:35

小艾摘要: Remember when currency policy, rather than maritime disputes, used to top the agenda for US-China relations?Washington long complained that Beijing kept its currency artificially weak, helping the cou ...
Renminbi bulls seize on hopes for economy
Remember when currency policy, rather than maritime disputes, used to top the agenda for US-China relations?

Washington long complained that Beijing kept its currency artificially weak, helping the country win manufacturing business and amass roughly $4tn in foreign exchange reserves.

For a while, appreciation proved an effective antidote – a stronger renminbi meant a quieter US Treasury. Between the summer of 2010 and January this year, the renminbi had risen almost 12 per cent against the dollar, to reach its highest level in almost two decades.

But exchange rates are creeping back on to the list of talking points, with the US more and more concerned that China is back to old habits. The renminbi has been the worst performing currency in Asia this year, down more than 3 per cent against the dollar. Last week it hit Rmb6.26, the lowest level since late 2012.

Most analysts believe that the weakness has been directed by China’s central bank, which has used the fixed rate around which the renminbi can trade to nudge the currency down.

In March, the Chinese authorities widened the daily trading band to 2 per cent above or below the daily fix. Taken together, these two policies have both guided the currency lower and given it the freedom to fall faster.

The prevailing theory is that the People’s Bank of China is using a weaker currency to ward off “hot money” inflows from speculators. Chinese exporters have a long record of using fake trade receipts to bring US dollars onshore, swap them into local currency and benefit from the higher interest rates and appreciation. That distorts China’s economic data, and fuels more currency gains.

The battle to ward off speculation has lasted longer than originally expected – many predicted a fall of just a few weeks when it began four months ago. Worsening sentiment towards investing in China – where the property market is showing signs of stress – may have contributed. But declining intervention by the central bank points to waning upward pressure on the currency.

According to calculations by Barclays, there were more than $8bn in capital outflows from China in April, following a six-month period when about $140bn came in the other direction. Exporters, it seems, may finally be getting the message.

“We should, from now on, see the currency appreciate, given that the job seems to have been completed,” says Hamish Pepper, FX strategist at Barclays, who believes recent outflows may allow the PBoC to “ease off” from pushing the currency down further.

But there is increasing debate within the market over whether the managed drop is instead being used to prop up a stumbling export sector. If so, the lower renminbi could yet endure, especially if accompanied by more capital leaving China.

Some investment banks have chosen to trim their guidance. JPMorgan recently cut its forecast for the renminbi to 6.15 against the dollar by the end of this year, and 6.1 by the end of 2015. That equates to appreciation of just 2.5 per cent during the next year-and-a-half, and with a bumpier ride along the way than during previous bouts of currency strength. If correct, the 19-year record high hit back in January could prove the zenith until at least 2016.

But as the gloominess about the renminbi becomes more entrenched, the outlook for China’s economy seems to be brightening. Credit Suisse economists recently hailed a “turning point” in growth, with their in-house leading indicator showing a distinct improvement in activity.

“The pick-up in this leading indicator is tentative and from a low level, but we believe that the worst in terms of the economy losing momentum is perhaps behind us,” they said in a research note.

Container port volumes, electricity consumption and auto sales figures all suggest the slowdown has been arrested. Data released on Sunday showed China’s official purchasing managers’ index rose from 50.4 in April to 50.8 in May, a five-month high.

Further support from policy makers, perhaps in the form of cuts to bank reserve requirements, could help embed that recovery and balance the risks from a weak property market. The Hang Seng China Enterprises index – mainland companies traded in Hong Kong – rose 4 per cent in May, a small indication of improving sentiment.

Building evidence of an economic turnround could give renminbi bears pause for thought. Dariusz Kowalczyk, strategist at Crédit Agricole CIB, said that now is the time to bet on a rebound. “Technical negatives in the renminbi have played themselves out already while fundamentals are turning round,” he wrote in a recent report.

在与美中关系相关的议程中,以往占据首要位置的往往是汇率政策,而不是海上争端。

长期以来,华盛顿方面一直抱怨中国政府人为压低人民币汇率,帮助国内企业赢得制造业务,并积累下约4万亿美元的外汇储备。

一段时间以来,人民币升值被证明是一剂有效的“解药”——人民币汇率走强的同时,美国财政部的批评之声也小了下来。从2010年夏至今年1月,人民币兑美元汇率上升了近12%,达到近20年内的最高水平。

但随着美国越来越担心中国故态复萌,汇率问题又渐渐回到美中讨论问题的清单中。今年以来,人民币一直都是亚洲表现最糟糕的一种货币,兑美元汇率跌幅超过3%。该汇率上周曾触及1美元兑换6.26元人民币,为2012年末以来的最低水平。

多数分析师认为,人民币汇率走低是中国央行(PBoC)引导的结果,中国央行通过设定汇率中间价来压低人民币汇率。

今年3月,中国当局将人民币每日交易区间扩大到中间价上下2%的范围。这两种政策的共同作用,引导着人民币汇率走低,并赋予其以更快速度下行的自由。

主流观点认为,中国央行目前正利用人民币走弱的势头阻止投机性“热钱”流入。长期以来,中国出口商们通过虚开贸易发票将美元带入国内,然后再兑换为人民币,从较高的利率和汇率升值获益。这扭曲了中国的经济数据,推动人民币汇率进一步升高。

这场打击投机的战斗持续得比当初预想的要长——人民币汇率在4个月之前开始走低时,许多人预计贬值趋势仅会持续几周时间。市场对投资中国的信心减弱——中国房地产市场出现紧张迹象——可能也是推动人民币汇率下跌的原因之一。

但是,中国央行减少干预意味着人民币汇率上升压力减弱。据巴克莱(Barclays)推算,今年4月流出中国的资本超过80亿美元,此前6个月,流入中国的资本约为1400亿美元。出口商看来可能终于领会到央行发出的信息。

巴克莱(Barclays)外汇策略师哈米什?佩珀(Hamish Pepper)表示:“从现在开始,我们应当会看到人民币升值,因为打击投机任务似乎完成了。”他认为,近期的资本外流可能会让中国央行“减缓”压低人民币汇率的力度。

但是,关于中国央行引导汇率走低是否为了支撑下滑的出口行业,市场上的争论越来越激烈。如果这是中国央行的真正用意,则人民币汇率下跌走势可能还会延续下去,如果更多资本流出中国的话就更是如此了。

有些投行已调低了自己的人民币汇率预期。摩根大通(JPMorgan)最近将今年底人民币兑美元汇率预期调低为1美元兑换6.15元人民币,2015年底汇率预期调低为1美元兑换6.1元人民币。这相当于,未来一年半内人民币兑美元汇率升幅仅为2.5%,但期间的波动幅度将比过去几轮升值时更大。如果此预测正确,则人民币兑美元汇率在今年1月创下的19年来高点可能至少在2016年之前都不会被突破。

但是,在市场更加不看好人民币走势之际,中国经济前景似乎在好转。瑞信(Credit Suisse)经济学家最近公布研究报告称,中国经济增长可能正面临着一个“转折点”,其领先指标显示经济活动已呈现明显改善的迹象。

该报告指出:“这项领先指标的上升还处在初步阶段,而且该指标此前处于较低水平;但我们相信,经济增长失去动能的最坏情况很可能已成为过去。”

集装箱港口出货量、用电量以及汽车销售量数据均表明,经济活动放缓势头已得到遏制。上周日公布的数据显示,中国官方采购经理人指数(PMI)从4月份的50.4上升至50.8,创下5个月以来的最高水平。

中国政策制定者出台更多支持措施(形式很可能是下调银行存款准备金率),或许有助于巩固经济复苏势头,并抵消疲弱的房地产市场所带来的风险。5月份,恒生中国企业指数(Hang Seng China Enterprises Index)上涨了4%,多少表明市场信心正在改善。

越来越多的证据表明中国经济状况好转,这可能会促使人民币看空人士进行反思。法国东方汇理银行(Crédit Agricole CIB)的策略师高大力(Dariusz Kowalczyk)表示,现在正是押注于人民币回弹的良机。他在最近发布的一份研究报告中写道:“从技术面来看,人民币的负面因素已经出尽,而基本面因素正在好转。”

译者/邢嵬

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