Daily market commentary: Trump’s new tariffs affect the Yuan

Daily Market analysis

ActivTrades’ Market Analysts have prepared for LeapRate their daily commentary on traditional markets for August 5, 2019. See details below:


The Yuan devalued over 1% against the US Dollar during early Monday trading, the sharpest drop for the Chinese currency, since the 2008 financial crisis, with one Dollar now worth more than 7 Yuan. According to some observers, this is the result of an increase in trade tensions, following the imposition of new tariffs on 300 billion worth of Chinese imports, by Washington and the subsequent promise by the Chinese authorities to retaliate,.

The devaluation will in some way mitigate the effect of the new tariffs over the price American consumers will pay for imported Chinese goods; however, adding a new currency front to the ongoing trade conflict, between the world’s two economic superpowers, is likely to increase tensions even more, potentially hampering the growth of the global economy. It Is therefore reasonable to look at the latest developments as a warning from China, and not as an all-out retaliatory movement.

Ricardo Evangelista – Senior Analyst, ActivTrades


The risk-off mood continues this week as stocks from Tokyo to London extend last Friday’s losses. This sell-off takes follows escalating concerns over the U.S. – China trade war, after Beijing asked state buyers to stop imports of American agricultural products, casting more and more doubts over a resolution of the trade dispute. On top of that, the PBoC depreciated the Yuan to a record low against the U.S. Dollar as the nation use every cards in its hand to protect itself from the negative effect of U.S. tariffs.

For now, the market is still waiting for President Trump’s reaction which may come later in the day in the shape of a traditional offensive tweet towards China.

Elsewhere, the earnings season continues to roll with financial giants like Unicredit, AIG and ABN Amro Bank publishing their results today. Traders may also stay cautious this week with multiples decisions on interest rates pending from 5 Eastern central banks including India, Australia and New-Zealand as well as several speeches from FED policy makers like Governor Lael later today.

Pierre Veyret– Technical analyst, ActivTrades

Charlie Awdry, Portfolio Manager for the Chinese Equities strategy at Janus Henderson Investors, has provided his views on the central bank’s symbolic move to allow the yuan to drop below 7.0 against the US$ and its significance for investors:

Today the Chinese yuan (CNY) finally broke through to the downside to the psychologically important level of 7.0 to the US dollar. 7.0 was a clear line in the sand defended by monetary authorities in Beijing since late 2016.

Many will say this breach of 7.0 is a political decision as part of the US-China trade war but the economic theory of ‘the impossible trinity’ suggests that over the medium term, policymakers cannot simultaneously control domestic monetary conditions, the cross border movement of capital and the foreign exchange rate. The move shows that Chinese policymakers are finally giving in to this reality after a period of weak growth and ineffective policy responses. Perhaps it is merely convenient for the CNY to weaken through 7.0 now under the cover of the trade war?

The question of what this means for Chinese equity markets is a complex one to answer and is made more difficult by the extra volatility brought about by lower trading activity in the Northern Hemisphere’s summer holiday month of August. That it is happening just as the political situation in Hong Kong is becoming more combustible is an extra cause for concern in what are traditionally very emotional Chinese equity markets.

We see the following implications:

1. Headwind for foreign investors

Chinese equities generally earn CNY profits and have balance sheets dominated by CNY assets so a weaker CNY is clearly a headwind to returns for overseas investors who think in terms of USD, euro or GBP. Emerging market / Asia Pacific investors can choose between many countries to invest in and hence often look to the USD as a base for earnings across countries. A lower CNY will generally lead to lower earnings forecasts for Chinese corporates, a feature that investors tend not to like and that can keep equity markets cheap.

2. Offshore debt worries

We are extremely cautious on the equity of any company with offshore debt financing in USD and HK dollars. A particular concern to us is property equities because the sector is a very large issuer in the high yield offshore bond market. Funding CNY is cash consuming and generating businesses with USD debt is a problem if the CNY falls, as the effective debt load increases and can cause solvency issues. Indeed, over the years, this has traditionally been the Achilles’ heel of corporate emerging markets.

3. Credit quality issues

As we have held a very cautious view on Chinese bank shares for over a year now, this CNY move reinforces our positioning with the potential for more credit quality issues. Credit quality issues originating from the property sector would not be a surprise but what is harder to determine are the unintended consequences of this move.


We will be monitoring the situation but it is probably fair to say that, if corporate China has seen the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) defend 7.0 to the USD for almost three years, those same corporates will have implemented a view that the CNY will not fall below 7.0 in financial decision making. While offshore funding is one obvious exposure, we will be watching to see where else risks will emerge.

This CNY move can be considered as a policy stimulus to the Chinese economy at a time when economic momentum measured by the Caixin Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) survey has been weak. Given our China equity portfolios have a strong domestic demand focus, we will see if the currency move has a significant impact on consumer demand over time.

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