Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Should you bet on a yuan appreciation?

The surge in Chinese exports and the increase in Chinese interest rates suggests so:
The last really big currency realignment was a series of devaluations that took the Yuan down from a high of 1.50 to the dollar in 1980. By the mid nineties it had depreciated by 84%. The goal was to make exports more competitive. The Chinese succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. There is absolutely no way that the fixed rate regime can continue.
There are only two possible outcomes. An artificially low Yuan has to eventually cause the country's inflation rate to explode. Or a global economic recovery causes Chinese exports to balloon to politically intolerable levels. Either case forces a major revaluation. Of course timing is everything. It's tough to know how many sticks it takes to break a camel's back. Talk to senior officials at the People's Bank of China, and they'll tell you they still need a weak currency to develop their impoverished economy.
Per capita income is still at only $5,000, a tenth of that of the US. But that is up a lot from $100 in 1978. Talk to senior US Treasury officials, and they'll tell you they are amazed that the Chinese peg has lasted this long. How many exports will it take to break it? $1.5 trillion, $2 trillion, $2.5 trillion? It's anyone's guess. One thing is certain. A free floating Yuan would be at least 50% higher than it is today, and possibly 100%. In fact, the desire to prevent foreign hedge funds from making a killing in the market is a not a small element in Beijing's thinking.

1 comment:

  1. fyi, it appears one way to play the collapse in the peg is through WisdoemTree's China Yuan Fund (CYB).