In the People’s Bank of China’s (PBOC) Monday daily currency value “fixing,” the yuan/renminbi was set 0.33% weaker (vs. dollar) at 6.9225. Market reaction was immediate and intense. The Chinese currency quickly traded to 7.03 and then ended Monday’s disorderly session at an 11-year low 7.0602 (largest daily decline since August ’15). While still within the PBOC’s 2% trading band, it was a 1.56% decline for the day (offshore renminbi down 1.73%). A weaker-than-expected fix coupled with the lack of PBOC intervention (as the renminbi blew through the key 7.0 level) rattled already skittish global markets.
Safe haven assets were bought aggressively. Gold surged $23, or 1.6%, Monday to $1,441, the high going back to 2013 (trading to all-time highs in Indian rupees, British pounds, Australian dollars and Canadian dollar). The Swiss franc gained 0.9%, and the Japanese yen increased 0.6%. Treasury yields sank a notable 14 bps to 1.71%, the low going back to October 2016. Intraday Monday, 10-year yields traded as much as 32 bps below three-month T-bills, “the most extreme yield-curve inversion” since 2007 (from Bloomberg). German bund yields declined another two bps to a then record low negative 0.52% (ending the week at negative 0.58%). Swiss 10-year yields fell two bps to negative 0.88% (ending the week at negative 0.98%). Australian yields dropped below 1.0% for the first time.
It’s worth noting the Japanese yen traded Monday at the strongest level versus the dollar since the January 3rd market dislocation (that set the stage for the Powell’s January 4th “U-turn). “Risk off” saw EM currencies under liquidation – with the more vulnerable under notable selling pressure. The Brazilian real dropped 2.2%, the Colombian peso 2.1%, the Argentine peso 1.8%, the Indian rupee 1.6% and the South Korean won 1.4%. Crude fell 1.7% in Monday trading. Hong Kong’s China Financials Index dropped 2.5%, with the index down 4.4% for the week to the lowest level since January. European bank stocks dropped 4.1%, trading to the low since July 2016.
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