Yuan edges up, but gains capped by worries over Delta outbreaks

Traders said the slightly firmer yuan was reflecting a falling dollar in overseas market

Chinese Yuan and U.S. dollar banknotes are seen in this illustration taken February 10, 2020.

Chinese Yuan and U.S. dollar banknotes are seen in this illustration taken February 10, 2020.

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

SHANGHAI - The yuan edged up against a weaker U.S. dollar on Wednesday, but gains were capped by investor worries over widening outbreaks of the highly contagious Delta variant in China and their potential impact on economic growth in the second half of the year.

China reported on Wednesday 96 new COVID-19 cases for Aug. 3. Although the number of cases remained small in absolute terms compared with other economies, the Delta coronavirus variant has been detected in at least a dozen cities, including big ones such as Beijing, Wuhan and Chongqing.

Policy insiders and analysts told Reuters that China was poised to quicken spending on infrastructure projects while the central bank would support with modest easing steps, as risks from the Delta variant and flooding threaten to slow the economic recovery.

Prior to market opening, the People's Bank of China (PBOC) set the midpoint rate at 6.4655 per dollar, 45 pips or 0.07% weaker than the previous fix of 6.461.

In the spot market, onshore yuan opened at 6.4652 per dollar and was changing hands at 6.4608 at midday, 92 pips firmer than the previous late session close.

Traders said the slightly firmer yuan was reflecting a falling dollar in overseas market, but the domestic virus outbreaks have triggered risk aversion sentiment in the market.

A trader at a foreign bank said the yuan remained rangebound on Wednesday morning as investors wait for news of specific measures that policymakers would roll out to prop up the economy.

"Notwithstanding the stability in RMB spot, we think the underlying positive drivers for the RMB continue to be undermined," strategists at OCBC Bank said in a note.

"Any market expectations of PBOC rate hikes were replaced with reserve requirement ratio (RRR) cut expectations. These negatives weigh on the RMB at this point, and informs our bias for a higher USD/CNH."

A number of global investment banks including Goldman Sachs, ING, Standard Chartered and Pinpoint Asset Management saw chances for another RRR cut in the remainder of this year.

The PBOC delivered an unexpected broad-based RRR cut in July, with many market analysts and participants interpreting it as a fine-tuning liquidity move.

In the global markets, the dollar was pinned near recent lows against other currencies, as traders awaited U.S. jobs data for a guide to the rates outlook. 

The global dollar index fell to 92.002 at midday from the previous close of 92.036, while the offshore yuan was trading at 6.458 per dollar.

The yuan market at 0343 GMT:

ONSHORE SPOT: Item Current Previous Change PBOC midpoint 6.4655 6.461 -0.07% CNY=SAEC Spot yuan 6.4608 6.47 0.14% CNY=CFXS Divergence from -0.07% midpoint* Spot change YTD 1.04% Spot change since 2005 28.10% revaluation

Key indexes:

Item Current Previous Change

Thomson 98.29 98.3 0.0 Reuters/HKEX CNH index Dollar index 92.002 92.036 0.0

*Divergence of the dollar/yuan exchange rate. Negative number indicates that spot yuan is trading stronger than the midpoint. The People's Bank of China (PBOC) allows the exchange rate to rise or fall 2% from official midpoint rate it sets each morning.


Instrument Current Difference

from onshore Offshore spot yuan 6.458 0.04% CNH= * Offshore 6.6318 -2.51% non-deliverable forwards CNY1YNDFOR= **

*Premium for offshore spot over onshore CNY=CFXS **Figure reflects difference from PBOC's official midpoint, since non-deliverable forwards are settled against the midpoint. 

(Reporting by Winni Zhou and Andrew Galbraith; Editing by Kim Coghill) ((winni.zhou@thomsonreuters.com; +86 21 2083 0100; Reuters Messaging: winni.zhou.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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