SHANGHAI, Aug 31 (Reuters) - The yuan advanced further on Monday and looked set for the best month since January 2019, thanks to solid services sector growth and persistent softness in the U.S. dollar as the Federal Reserve signals it is prepared to hold rates lower for longer. The dollar was poised to register its fourth consecutive monthly decline, its longest streak since the summer of 2017. Prior to market opening, the People's Bank of China (PBOC) lifted its official yuan midpoint rate to 6.8605 per dollar, 286 pips or 0.42% firmer than the previous fix of 6.8891 on Friday, and the strongest since July 2, 2019. The fixing was still 55 pips weaker than a Reuters' estimate of 6.8550 per dollar. In the spot market, onshore yuan opened at 6.8633 per dollar and was changing hands at 6.8467 at midday, 179 pips firmer than the previous late session close. If the onshore spot yuan retains all the gains by the late night close, it would have jumped 1.87% on the dollar for the month, booking the biggest monthly advance since January 2019. Market expectations rose for further yuan strength with many investors building up fresh long positions in the currency after both the onshore and offshore yuan rose past 6.85 per dollar, traders said. Many corporate clients were also selling their long dollars to avoid more exchange losses, they said. "Technically, the yuan remains in a slow appreciation trend," said Li Liuyang, chief foreign exchange analyst at China Merchants Bank in Shanghai, and pegged the next target at 6.84 per dollar. Separately, encouraging services sector data also supported the yuan in morning trade, according to traders. China's official manufacturing PMI grew at a slower pace in August as floods across southwestern China disrupts production, but the services sector expanded at a solid rate in a boost to the economy as it continues to recover from the coronavirus shock. The offshore yuan rose to a high of 6.8449 at one point on Monday morning, the loftiest level since July 1, 2019. By midday, it was trading at 6.8457 per dollar. The yuan market at 0400 GMT: ONSHORE SPOT: Item Current Previous Change PBOC midpoint 6.8605 6.8891 0.42% Spot yuan 6.8467 6.8646 0.26% Divergence from -0.20% midpoint* Spot change YTD 1.70% Spot change since 2005 20.88% revaluation Key indexes: Item Current Previous Change Thomson 92.73 92.74 0.0 Reuters/HKEX CNH index Dollar index 92.255 92.232 0.0 *Divergence of the dollar/yuan exchange rate. Negative number indicates that spot yuan is trading stronger than the midpoint. The People's Bank of China (PBOC) allows the exchange rate to rise or fall 2% from official midpoint rate it sets each morning. OFFSHORE CNH MARKET Instrument Current Difference from onshore Offshore spot yuan 6.8457 0.01% * Offshore 6.993 -1.89% non-deliverable forwards ** *Premium for offshore spot over onshore **Figure reflects difference from PBOC's official midpoint, since non-deliverable forwards are settled against the midpoint. . (Reporting by Winni Zhou and Andrew Galbraith Editing by Shri Navaratnam)
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