| HONG KONG
HONG KONG Jan 5 China's offshore yuan
retreated in Hong Kong after making its biggest gain in a year
in overnight trade, but it was still hovering around a one-month
high as surging funding costs forced yuan short sellers to
square positions and stop losses.
The offshore yuan changed hands at 6.8918 near midday. It
rose 1.3 percent by the New York close to 6.8689 per dollar, its
biggest gain since Jan. 11 last year, when it rose 1.5 percent.
"Short-term interest rate is too high now, with overnight
borrowing cost of the yuan surpassing 40 percent," said Ngan Kim
Man, deputy head of treasury at China Everbright Bank's Hong
The overnight yuan borrowing rate in Hong Kong has been
elevated since Christmas holiday and the fixing hit one-year
high on Thursday at 38.34 percent, and that compared to 4.82
percent at the beginning of December.
"If yuan short sellers do not square their positions, they
will see losses immediately as the funding cost is really high,"
The yuan is still under heavy depreciation pressure this
year, and this expectation pushed investors, especially those in
offshore markets, to build large short yuan positions to wait to
In 2016, the yuan weakened 6.63 percent against the dollar,
its biggest move since 1994.
China has been making great efforts to stabilise its
currency ahead of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's
inauguration and the Chinese New Year later this month by taking
actions that affect both onshore and offshore markets.
The People's Bank of China has set stronger than expected
yuan daily midpoints for onshore trade and state banks were seen
offering dollars in the past few days, in order to stop the yuan
from falling too quickly and to stabilise market expectations.
On Thursday, with the global dollar index easing from a
14-year peak, the PBOC set a much stronger yuan midpoint at
6.9307, marking the biggest daily strengthening in percentage
terms since Dec. 6.
"The movement yesterday was not triggered by an outright
intervention from PBOC. Alternatively, it is more like a
knee-jerk reaction as there were massive stop-loss flows in the
market," said Zhou Hao, senior EM economist at Commerzbank.
"These wild movements of USD-CNH indicate that the market
will remain volatile in the short term, but won't change the
fact that yuan is under pressure to weaken," Zhou said.
Offshore market players say a shrinking yuan pool in Hong
Kong, as fewer people are seeking yuan-denominated assets amid
expectations the currency will weaken further, has also
contributed to the volatility in offshore yuan rates.
Yuan deposits in the world's biggest offshore yuan hub fell
by 5.3 percent from a month earlier to 627.6 billion yuan
($90.23 billion) in November, the lowest level since January
China's foreign exchange regulator said on Saturday that
from the start of the year it would step up scrutiny on
individual foreign currency purchases and strengthen punishment
for illegal money outflows. The move reflects Beijing's concern
over the high level of capital outflows in recent months, though
individuals buying foreign currency was only a small part of the
(Reporting by Michelle Chen; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)