The Treasury’s latest semiannual FX report may have spared China the designation of currency manipulator (for now… in a new twist, there was a section dedicated exclusively to China in the Executive Summary, a clear signal from the Treasury that China is the disproportionate focus of the report stating that ‘it is is clear that China is not resisting depreciation through intervention as it had in the recent past’), but the market was not as forgiving.
In the latest shock to Chinese confidence and stability, overnight Chinese shares extended the world’s worst slump as the yuan touched its weakest level in almost two years, testing the government’s ability to maintain market stability and calm as risks continued to mount for Asia’s largest economy.
Two days after we reported that concerns about pledged shares, in which major investors put up stock as collateral for personal loans – a disastrous practice when stock prices are dropping, emerged as a key pressure point for China’s market, overnight Bloomberg reported that “rising fears of widespread margin calls fueled a 3 percent tumble in the Shanghai Composite Index, which sank to a nearly four-year low as more than 13 stocks fell for each that rose.”
The concentrated selloff, sent the Shanghai Composite down 2.9%, closing at session lows of 2,486, the lowest level since November 2014, as China’s plunge-protecting “National Team” was nowhere to be seen.
Chinese stocks have dropped 30% below their January highs, as the spread between China’s market and the rest of the world grows alarmingly wide.
Meanwhile, local government efforts to shore up confidence in smaller companies failed to boost sentiment, while the yuan tumbled to 6.94, just shy of its one and a half year low of 6.9587 touched in August, after the U.S. Treasury Department stopped short of declaring China a currency manipulator, a move that some interpreted as giving Beijing breathing room to allow a weaker exchange rate.
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