Resilient China is firewall in emerging currency crisis

China itself still boasts a strong foreign reserve position and has taken steps to cut debt, both useful shields against global turmoil. (File/AFP)
Updated 16 September 2018
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Resilient China is firewall in emerging currency crisis

  • Emerging countries — loosely defined as having fast growing but volatile economies — have seen their currencies battered in recent weeks
  • China, the world’s second-biggest economy and itself categorized as an emerging market, doesn’t share a key downside of the worst-hit countries

PARIS: China is the last bulwark against a deep crisis in emerging economies going fully global, analysts say, although a prolonged trade war could sap Beijing’s defenses.
Emerging countries — loosely defined as having fast growing but volatile economies — have seen their currencies battered in recent weeks, plunging their finances into turmoil, and raising fears of global contagion.
But China, the world’s second-biggest economy and itself categorized as an emerging market, doesn’t share a key downside of the worst-hit countries: their rampant current account deficits.
“The possibility of a currency crisis in China is unlikely,” said Guan Qingyou, chief economist at China’s Rushi Advanced Institute of Finance.
“China’s ability to resist risk is relatively strong.”
Current account deficits must be financed with foreign currencies, and as central banks across the world enter a cycle of tighter monetary conditions, especially the powerful US Federal Reserve, cheap money will become scarce.
Higher US interest rates are “another nail in the coffin” for emerging countries needing external financing, said Lukman Otunuga, a research analyst at FXTM.
A meltdown of the Turkish lira — somewhat stemmed by a recent massive interest rate rise — and the Argentinian peso are cases in point, as both countries have “exceptionally large current account deficits,” said Oliver Jones, markets economist at Capital Economics.
South Africa, Colombia and, to a lesser extent, India and Indonesia are in similar danger of being trapped in Fed rate rise pain, he said.
But the currencies of Korea, Thailand and Malaysia have done much better because of their close trade ties with Beijing and their healthier current account positions.
China itself still boasts a strong foreign reserve position and has taken steps to cut debt, both useful shields against global turmoil.
“Our foreign exchange reserves are still relatively high,” said Guan at the Reality Institute. “In addition, China has already started the process of deleveraging after the end of 2016.”
But even if fundamentals are still holding up, only the very brave dare predict how damaging ongoing trade tensions with the United States will be to China’s position.
Recent tentative signs of improving relations between Washington and Beijing have lifted investor spirits, but the threat of the US imposing fresh tariffs on Chinese imports worth $200 billion still looms large.
Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, warned recently that higher US-China tariffs would have a “measurable impact on growth in China” and “trigger vulnerabilities” among its Asian neighbors.
While her staff did not yet see contagion spreading beyond the countries currently fighting investor flight, the escalating US-China trade spat could deliver a “shock” to emerging markets, she told the Financial Times
But in the meantime, said Joydeep Mukherji, an analyst with S&P Global, said “we are not forecasting a major crisis in emerging markets.”
Perhaps inspired by the 10th anniversary of the global financial crisis, economists have started to wonder whether there could be another worldwide meltdown, this time triggered by highly-indebted emerging countries.
For now, the answer appears to be no.
“China can still cope with its debt due to its high savings rate,” said Holger Schmieding, an analyst with Berenberg.
“Some other emerging markets are in trouble. Fortunately, they are simply not big enough to cause a big new global crisis.”


US, China impose fresh tariffs with no trade talks in sight

Updated 21 sec ago
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US, China impose fresh tariffs with no trade talks in sight

  • The two countries have already slapped tariffs on $50 billion worth of each other’s goods earlier this year
  • Trade talks in Washington last month produced no meaningful progress
BEIJING: The US and China imposed fresh tariffs on each other’s goods on Monday, as the world’s biggest economies showed no signs of backing down from an increasing bitter trade dispute that has rattled financial markets.
US tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods and retaliatory tariffs by Beijing on $60 billion worth of US products took effect as of 0401 GMT.
The two countries have already slapped tariffs on $50 billion worth of each other’s goods earlier this year.
Chinese products hit with new US duties include vacuum cleaners to Internet-connected devices, while US goods targeted by Beijing include liquefied natural gas and certain types of aircraft.
China’s state council will publish a white paper at 1 pm local time (0500 GMT) on the trade frictions with the US, the official Xinhua news agency reported, without giving further details.
Though a senior White House official last week said the US will continue to engage China for a “positive way forward,” neither side has signaled willingness to compromise.
The US official said on Friday there was no date set for the next round of talks. The Wall Street Journal reported that China, which has accused Washington of being insincere in trade negotiations, has decided not to send Vice Premier Liu He to Washington this week.
Economists warn that a protracted dispute will eventually stunt growth not just in the US and China but across the broader global economy.
The trade tensions have also cast a pall over broader relations between Beijing and Washington, with the two sides butting heads on a growing number of issues.
China summoned the US ambassador in Beijing and postponed joint military talks in protest against a US decision to sanction a Chinese military agency and its director for buying Russian fighter jets and a surface-to-air missile system.
Trade talks in Washington last month produced no meaningful progress.
Rob Carnell, chief Asia economist at ING, said in a note to clients that in the absence of any incentives Beijing would likely hold off on any further negotiations for now.
“It would look weak both to the US and at home,” he said, adding that there is “sufficient stimulus in the pipeline” to limit the damage of the latest tariffs on China’s growth.
“The US-China trade war has no clear end in sight.”
China may also be waiting for US mid-term elections early next month for any hints of changes in Washington’s policy stance, Carnell added.
“With generic polls favoring the Democrats, they may feel that the trade environment will be less hostile after November 6.”
The US administration will levy tariffs of 10 percent on the $200 billion of Chinese products, with the tariffs to go up to 25 percent by the end of 2018.
Beijing set its new levies on $60 billion of US goods at 5 and 10 percent and warned it would respond to any rise in US tariffs on Chinese products accordingly.
US President Donald Trump on Saturday reiterated a threat to impose further tariffs on Chinese goods should Beijing retaliate, in line with his previous comments signaling that Washington may move to impose tariffs on virtually all imported Chinese goods if the administration does not get its way.
China imports far less from the US, making a dollar-for-dollar match on any new US tariffs impossible.
Instead, it has warned of “qualitative” measures to retaliate.
Though Beijing has not revealed what such steps might be, business executives and analysts say China could withhold exports of certain products to the US or create more administrative red tape for American companies.
Some analysts say there is also a risk that China could allow its yuan currency to weaken again to cushion the blow to its exporters.