September 8, 2015

Amidst all the furore around China’s market weakness and market declines, here is China’s problem in a nutshell:

  • China lost $94 billion in Foreign Exchange Reserves in August, taking the decline to $436 billion since June 2004.
  • Foreign Exchange Reserves have fallen 11% from the June 2014 peak level.

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  • Global Foreign Exchange Reserves are down 4.9% y/y – the fastest decline since 1982.

Why is this important?

Historically, foreign currency has flowed to China and the PBOC has purchased those currencies (acquiring an asset) to stop the Yuan from appreciating. They exchanged Yuan for the foreign currencies (creating a domestic currency liability). The PBOC’s balance sheet grew with foreign exchange assets and their domestic currency liability counterpart.

Left unchecked, that explosion of domestic currency liabilities into the system fuelled speculation and credit expansion – foreign exchange reserve growth reflected extremely accommodative domestic monetary policy.

Now the whole cycle has gone into reverse.

Capital is flooding out of China as the PBOC exchanges Yuan back into foreign currency for investors to flee.

The decline in foreign exchange assets, therefore, represents a substantial tightening in domestic monetary conditions as the PBOC buys Yuan (reducing the liability on its balance sheet) and hands back Dollars/Euros/Pounds etc. (reducing the assets on its balance sheet). This is why the PBOC has cut rates and cut reserve requirements for banks – they are trying desperately to fight a huge monetary policy tightening.

What more can be done?

Our view remains that meaningful Yuan devaluation over the next few years is the only real solution here for the Chinese, leading to substantial global disinflation/deflation pressure at a time of extremely low starting inflation.

Japan and Germany are particularly vulnerable given their trade overlap, some Asian banking systems (e.g. Singapore and Hong Kong) are particularly vulnerable given their extreme debt growth.

 

MONOGRAM CAPITAL MANAGEMENT