Forex Blog: Currency Trading News & Analysis.

August 1st 2006

Commentary: Chinese Yuan remains undervalued

With my first commentary piece, I would like to address several issues concerning the Chinese Yuan. Let me begin by saying there is a tremendous amount of information and a wide array of often-conflicting opinions surrounding the Chinese Yuan. The problem with most financial analysts is that they often fail to grasp the big picture: in this case, the determinants of the Chinese Yuan’s value are multifarious, and take in financial, economic, and political factors, which most analysts fail to consider.

As most of you are probably aware, the Chinese Yuan has appreciated over 3.5% in the last year, including the 2.1% revaluation that the Chinese government effected last July. Many economists insist the Yuan is still undervalued by 35%, a figure that politicians love to quote. Analysts have also backed this estimate and incorporated it into their models that predict the Yuan will appreciate by 5% this year. You can look at RMB currency futures for proof that this is indeed the consensus forecast.

Both of these figures are ill-conceived and downright misleading. First of all, while the Yuan could clearly stand to appreciate, the extent to which it’s undervalued is probably closer to 10-15%. A true estimate of the Yuan’s fair value must make adjustments for inflation in order to account for differences in purchasing power. As China’s economy has expanded, inflation has grown at a proportional rate, eroding the value of the Yuan. At this point, China’s ability to produce cheap goods is probably more closely related to a surplus of unskilled labor and free capital, than to an undervalued currency.

Secondly, and just as important, is the fact that China will likely continue to appreciate the Yuan at its own pace. On several occasions, Chinese political leaders have invoked an ancient Chinese proverb when discussing the revaluation of the Yuan. The proverb states that one should take small steps in this type of situation. Whether China is genuinely nervous about revaluing or whether it simply wants to keep benefiting from an undervalued currency is anyone’s guess. What is not debatable is China’s stubbornness, reflected in its refusal to bow to western pressure when shaping its economic policy. In short, when an analyst tells you that the Yuan will appreciate by more than 3% this year, you should react with skepticism.

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in Chinese Yuan (RMB), Commentary | No Comments »

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