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China's RMB unlikely to depreciate largely this year, U.S. expert says

Xinhua, April 12, 2016 Adjust font size:

China's currency renminbi (RMB), or the yuan, is unlikely to see a large depreciation this year despite slowing economic growth and weak exports, a U.S. expert said Monday.

"I don't think we'll see either a big step devaluation or a market-driven large depreciation" of the RMB this year, Nicholas Lardy, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and a leading expert on China's economy, said at a seminar on global economic prospects.

"I don't accept the argument that the (Chinese) currency is significantly overvalued. I don't accept the argument that China has lost the competitiveness," Lardy said, adding that China has successfully moved up the value chain into higher value-added products and its share of global exports continued to expand in recent years despite the significant appreciation of the RMB.

China's current account surplus was about 300 billion U.S. dollars last year, which was the largest in the world in absolute terms, indicating that China didn't need to devalue its currency to boost the economic growth, Lardy said.

Lardy also refuted the claim that market forces will force a large depreciation of the RMB because China's foreign exchange reserves are "overstated" and "falling rapidly."

China's foreign exchange reserves fell by about 513 billion dollars in 2015, the biggest annual drop on record, but about one third of that decline reflected valuation effect rather than an actual outflow of reserves, according to Lardy.

Since the U.S. dollar appreciated against the euro, yen and other currencies starting in late 2011, the value of these non-dollar financial assets in China's foreign exchange reserves measured in dollars has been going down, he explained.

A large part of the decline in reserves actually reflected Chinese corporations repaying foreign currency loans, Lardy said, noting that cross-border claims by foreign banks on Chinese counterparties in China had fallen by about 235 billion dollars to 875 billion dollars by the end of the third quarter of 2015.

"This is part of capital outflows, but I don't think it should be regarded as capital flight, and certainly there's no change in China's net international financial position as a result of this (adjustment)," he argued.

"I think the argument that the decline in reserves is because of panic mainlanders trying to get their money offshore is somewhat misleading," Lardy said. "I think it largely reflects actions of investors and corporations in response to change in exchange rate expectations and interest rate differentials."

China's foreign exchange reserves increased by 10.26 billion dollars to top 3.21 trillion dollars in March, the first increase since November, easing fears of a downward spiral of capital outflows and currency weakness.

Chinese authorities have repeatedly said that there is no basis for sustained devaluation of its currency.

Analysts believed capital outflows from China are likely to slow down in the coming months as the U.S. Federal Reserve signals slower pace of interest rate hikes this year and China's economy shows signs of warming. Endit