The rouble climbed to its strongest level since July 2015 on Monday morning, as the Russian Central Bank’s pledge to weaken the currency struggles to convince markets.
The rouble had already been appreciating as oil prices have recovered over the last twelve months, and growing optimism since Donald Trump’s victory in the US election has helped it become the best-performing emerging market currency since the vote, up just shy of 10 per cent.
President Trump’s calls for a normalisation of relations with Russia raised hopes of a relaxation of economic sanctions and encouraged international investors to return to the country.
The central bank has promised to spend more than Rbs113bn ($1.9bn) on foreign currency purchases this month to help slow the rouble’s climb, in an effort to boost the government’s spending power.
However, economists have been sceptical the bank would be able to have a big impact on the currency, and it has continued to rise a further 1.6 per cent since the announcement, including a 0.5 per cent rise this morning to take it to 57.99 per dollar.
The Bank of Japan’s holdings of Japanese government bonds has topped 40% of the outstanding balance for the first time, the central bank said Wednesday.
The BOJ has been snapping up JGBs in large quantities since it implemented drastic monetary easing measures in April 2013.
Statistics released by the bank show that its JGB holdings stood at about 358 trillion yen ($3.19 trillion) as of the end of January, or about 40% of the outstanding total of some 894 trillion yen.
Last September, the BOJ switched its policy focus from quantity to interest rates, aiming to keep long-term rates at around 0% to achieve its inflation target. Nevertheless, its JGB holdings continue to rise, with the bank sticking to its annual target of 80 trillion yen for JGB purchases.
With the amount of such bonds circulating in the market declining, “the bank will reach the limits of its bond purchase program as early as the first half of 2019,” said Takenobu Nakashima of Nomura Securities.
In surprising comments that may rekindle a verbal currency war between president Trump and Europe, German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble told German newspaper Tagesspiegel that in his opinion the Euro is “too low” for Germany, echoing criticism from Trump’s trade advisor Peter Navarro, who last week told the FT that Germany was exploiting its US and EU partners by using a “grossly undervalued” euro to create a vast trade surplus. The comment placed Germany, alongside China and Japan, in a category of countries that the Trump administration has accused of currency manipulation for competitive advantage.
As the FT reports on Sunday morning, Schauble acknowledged that the ECB had to set monetary policy for the eurozone as a whole, but said: “It is too loose for Germany.” A recent chart from Morgan Stanley confirms that on a PPP basis, the EUR is over 40% undervalued for exporting and current surplus powerhouse Germany on a standalone basis, however for many of Europe’s peripheral countries it still remains expensive.
What was more curious about Schauble statement is that the German finance minister blamed the European Central Bank for the low exchange rate.
Press reports suggest that China’s central bank has ordered banks to limit new loans in Q1.
Fitch revised the outlook on Nigeria’s B+ rating from stable to negative.
Russia announced details of the FX purchase plan.
Brazil’s central bank confirmed it will simplify the reserve requirement system for banks.
S&P cut the outlook on Chile’s AA- rating from stable to negative.
Mexican announced another hike in fuel prices will take place on February 4.
Mexican President Pena Nieto canceled a planned meeting with President Trump as tensions flare
In the EM equity space as measured by MSCI, Mexico (+5.1%), Russia (+4.5%), and Poland (+4.0%) have outperformed this week, while UAE (-1.5%), Hungary (-0.1%), and South Africa (flat) have underperformed. To put this in better context, MSCI EM rose 2.2% this week while MSCI DM rose 1.1%.
In the EM local currency bond space, Colombia (10-year yield -17 bp), the Philippines (-16 bp), and Peru (-10 bp) have outperformed this week, while Poland (10-year yield +18 bp), South Africa (+13 bp), and Korea (+7 bp) have underperformed. To put this in better context, the 10-year UST yield rose 3 bp this week to 2.50%.
In the EM FX space, MXN (+2.7% vs. USD), CLP (+1.1% vs. USD), and ZAR (+0.9% vs. USD) have outperformed this week, while TRY (-2.7% vs. USD), HUF (-0.7% vs. EUR), and COP (-0.4% vs. USD) have underperformed.
Press reports suggest that China’s central bank has ordered banks to limit new loans in Q1. The PBOC reportedly emphasized its concern about mortgage lending. Reports also suggest that it may make some lenders pay more for deposit insurance. If reports are true, then we would expect the economy to slow as we move through 2017. For now, China is not one of the major market drivers but this news would clearly be negative for risk and EM.
A new report from Standard Chartered estimates capital flows out of China totalled almost $730bn in 2016, a near-record level.
Analysts Shuang Ding and Lan Shen estimated outflows had moderated in December to $66bn, down from November’s $75bn.
Beneath the headline figure foreign direct investment flows turned positive for the first time in eight months with a $3bn inflow, while non-FDI outflows remained unchanged from the previous month at $69bn.
The analysts estimated December’s outflows brought the annual total for 2016 to $728bn, close to the previous year’s record high of $744bn.
They also estimated China’s foreign exchange reserves had fallen $41bn last month to end the year at $3.01tn as depreciation of the euro, yen and pound against the greenback. That reduced the dollar value of China’s holdings in those currencies by about $13bn.
As noted yesterday, for the first time in three years, and only the second time in history, bitcoin rose above $1,000 in Yuan-denominated Chinese trading, however it was limited to the lower side of this “round number” psychological barrier in US trading, as BTC flirted with $999.99 for most of the day on the popular Coinbase exchange, without crossing it.
Overnight, however, Chinese demand proved too great and US markets had no choice but to arb the difference. So with Bitcoin trading in China at an implied price of over $1,050 at this moment, bitcoin finally soared above $1,000 in the US as well, trading just around $1,024 on Coinbase as of this moment.
India’s foreign exchange reserves declined by $935.2 million to $359.671 billion in the week to December 23 on account of fall in foreign currency assets, the Reserve Bank said on Friday.
In the previous week, the reserves had fallen by $2.380 billion to $360.606 billion.
They had touched a life-time high of $371.99 billion in the week to September 30, 2016.
Foreign currency assets (FCAs), a major component of the overall reserves, dipped by $933.2 million to $335.970 billion in the reporting week.
FCAs, expressed in US dollar terms, include the effects of appreciation/depreciation of non-US currencies such as the euro, pound and the yen held in the reserves.
Gold reserves remained steady at $19.982 billion in the reporting week, the RBI said.
The special drawing rights with the International Monetary Fund decreased by $0.9 million to $1.427 billion, while India’s reserve position with the Fund too declined by $1.1 million to $2.290 billion, the data showed.
With Chinese liquidity markets turmoiling, bonds crashing, and gold premiums soaring, it appears growing concerns over capital controls tightening has sent Chinese fleeing into Bitcoin as a way to escape the mainland restrictions. Bitcoin is up over $30 today to its hghest since Dec 2013…
We first warned of this ‘outlet’ for Chinese capital in September 2015 when Bitcoin was trading around $200… its just topped $830…
The Bank of Japan revised its economic outlook for the first time in 19 months during the two-day policy meeting that ended Tuesday. But that is apparently the only step the central bank is taking at this time.
“The headwinds seen in the first half of this year have ceased,” BOJ Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda told reporters following the meeting. Markets were riled by heightened concerns directed at emerging economies at the beginning of 2016, only to be shocked in June by Britain’s referendum to exit the European Union. The BOJ was forced to loosen its policy in July, raising its target for exchange-traded fund purchases.
During the second half of 2016, the economic landscape has slowly brightened, beginning with U.S. readings. The Japanese economy has followed suit with increased exports and production. Consumption also recovered from a slump caused by a soft stock market and inclement weather at the beginning of the year.
“Japan’s economy has continued its moderate recovery trend,” the BOJ said in a statement published after the meeting. The central bank had previously qualified that view by highlighting sluggish exports and production.
Fresh guidelines issued by the Reserve Bank of India on Monday on limiting cash deposits of demonetised bank notes have added to the confusion. The central bank issued guidelines where it said that individuals will only be able to deposit demonetised bank notes above ₹5,000 only once till the remainder of the deposit deadline i.e. December 30, 2016.
On the surface, the guideline appears to be one that will hit the remaining black money hoarders in a single blow. However, the government hasn’t been able to plug laundering and cash leaks at banks. Therefore, the common person, who would’ve planned to deposit the money at a later stage, for various reasons like possibly to beat the early queues, would be hit unnecessarily.
Since the time demonetisation was announced, RBI has played a less than stellar role in managing the currency exchange and currency distribution process. Regular guidelines coming at regular intervals put the country in a state of confusion as to what will follow next and the damage control seems to be never-ending.