China asks top lenders for help to stabilise economy

In a bid to mitigate the relentless downward pressure on the yuan, China’s central bank has issued informal directives to some of the nation’s leading lenders, calling upon them to delay immediately squaring their foreign exchange positions in the market, according to two sources with knowledge of the matter. This move underscores the People’s Bank of China’s (PBOC) concerted efforts to manage the currency’s decline, making it one of Asia’s weakest performers in 2023, with a year-to-date loss of over 5%, trading at 7.2735 per dollar on Thursday.

Under this informal “window guidance,” banks have been instructed not to square their positions in the inter-bank foreign exchange markets following U.S. dollar sales to clients until their spot foreign exchange positions reach a predetermined level. Typically, banks are granted the latitude to maintain net short or long foreign currency positions within established thresholds in the spot dollar-yuan markets.

Essentially, this directive implies that a portion of the substantial dollar purchases made by companies will be temporarily absorbed by banks, thereby alleviating some of the downward pressure exerted on the sliding yuan. The PBOC conveyed these instructions during a recent meeting with select commercial banks earlier this week. Furthermore, banks were apprised that companies seeking to purchase $50 million or more would require prior approval from the central bank, as reported by Reuters.

The yuan’s persistent depreciation has raised concerns and prompted regulatory intervention aimed at safeguarding its stability. This concerted effort by the central bank underscores the broader economic implications associated with a rapidly weakening yuan, as it can impact foreign exchange reserves, trade competitiveness, and overall economic stability.

This strategic approach by the PBOC reflects the delicate balance Chinese authorities are striving to achieve – maintaining an equilibrium between supporting the domestic economy and addressing the currency’s depreciation. The directive aims to ensure that banks play a more active role in managing foreign exchange flows, thereby partially mitigating the currency’s descent.

As China navigates the complexities of its economic landscape and seeks to bolster its resilience amid global economic challenges, the management of the yuan’s exchange rate assumes paramount significance. The central bank’s proactive engagement with commercial banks underscores its commitment to safeguarding the nation’s currency stability, a critical element in China’s financial strategy in a volatile global financial landscape.

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