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Yuan eases off 1-mth high, focus back on trade after upbeat GDP

SHANGHAI: China’s yuan eased off a one-month high against the U.S. dollar on Thursday, as some companies took advantage of a much stronger midpoint to load up on the greenback.

After strong gains in the previous session sparked by upbeat economic data, traders’ attention was returning to the progress of U.S.-China trade talks, with the Wall Street Journal saying a deal may be ready to be signed by late May or early June.

Prior to the market opening on Thursday, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) lifted its official yuan midpoint to 6.6911 per dollar, 199 pips, or 0.3 percent firmer than the previous fix of 6.7110. It was the strongest fixing since March 21.

In the spot market, yuan opened at 6.6860 and rose to a high of 6.6854 at one point, the firmest level since March 21. But, as of midday, it was changing hands at 6.6947, 67 pips weaker than the previous late session close and 0.05 percent softer than the midpoint.

The Chinese currency leapt on Wednesday as a raft of stronger-than-expected economic data suggested the slowing economy may be starting to stabilise.

Though analysts cautioned it was too early to call a turnaround, the numbers suggested the economy may be bottoming out a bit sooner than expected, and some market watchers bumped up their full-year economic forecasts.

Robin Xing, economist at Morgan Stanley, raised his growth forecast by 0.2 percentage point to 6.5 percent this year and 6.3 percent in 2020.

“(We) maintain our view of a growth upturn in 2Q-4Q19 as fiscal easing fully kicks in, trade tensions ease, and consumer confidence normalizes,” he said in a note on Thursday.

Traders many offshore institutions started building long yuan positions following the strong data on Wednesday.

But in the onshore market, a trader at a Chinese bank said supply and demand was “not in favor of a strong yuan” for now, noting most of the gains in the past two days were tracking the those in the offshore market.

“For now, (onshore) corporate client’s expectations do not seem to have changed much,” the trader said.

Economists at BNP Paribas China expect the yuan to remain in a tight range.

“While growth stabilization and a possible trade deal support the RMB, weak exports imply a strong currency is infeasible,” they said in a note on Thursday.

A CNBC report said Chinese officials were identifying travel dates on U.S. President Donald Trump’s calendar that might offer potential for a summit between leaders of the two nations.

“Our forecast for the USD/CNY of 6.75 by the end of the year essentially tracks the development of trade talks. But we need to closely monitor the yuan’s moves post-trade talks to determine if we need to revise up our yuan forecast in 2Q and 3Q,” ING’s Greater China economist Iris Pang said in a note.

The global dollar index rose to 97.052 at midday from the previous close of 97.009. The offshore yuan was trading at 6.6937 per dollar as of midday.

China’s foreign exchange regulator said on Thursday the U.S. Federal Reserve’s policy stance will be favourable for the nation’s capital flows, and expected the cross-border capital flows to remain steady despite some uncertainties.


Asian markets down as global rally takes a break

HONG KONG: Asian markets fell Thursday as investors in most countries wound down going into the long Easter break, with positive comments on the China-US trade talks and healthy Chinese growth unable to fire buying activity.

Donald Trump’s key trade negotiator Robert Lighthizer is reportedly preparing to visit Beijing at the end of the month for another round of top-level talks aimed at ending the long-running tariffs spat.

The Wall Street Journal story was followed by the president saying he was optimistic the talks would be “successful”, and telling reporters there would be an announcement “very, very shortly”.

The upbeat developments were the latest to give hope for an end to a row that has dragged on the global economy and contributed to a market sell-off at the end of last year.

However, investors seemed unmoved, with Wall Street ending down and Asia also in the red on the final day of business before Easter.

OANDA senior market analyst Jeffrey Halley said the fact that markets “continue to bumble along in sideways ranges” indicated “a lot of good news — both present and future – is already baked into prices at these levels.

“Ahead of the extended Easter holidays and into the end of the month, the markets may be much more vulnerable to negative headlines than they have been in recent times.”

World markets have enjoyed a stellar year so far thanks to trade talk hopes as well as a more dovish stance by central banks, led the Federal Reserve saying it will not lift interest rates this year.

In early trade Hong Kong and Shanghai were each down 0.5 percent, Seoul shed 0.9 percent and Singapore eased 0.1 percent. Tokyo went into the break 0.5 percent lower.

Wellington and Taipei were also lower, though Sydney was flat.

Jakarta jumped more than one percent — and the rupiah rose 0.5 percent — as early polls suggested business-friendly incumbent Joko Widodo was on course to win Indonesia’s presidential election.

Oil prices edged down after Wednesday’s losses that were fuelled by a smaller than anticipated drop in US inventories and worries the US could extend waivers linked to Iranian sanctions.

“Traders are exercising a high degree of caution as the White House has been very cryptic with regards to policy, which is potentially setting up the catalyst for prices to knee jerk lower if the administration decides to increase Iran waiver limits,” said Stephen Innes at SPI Asset Management.

“All the while talk of Moscow backing out of (a deal with OPEC to cut output) continues to percolate.”


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