China's yuan dips against dollar, falls to record low against currency basket

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China’s yuan slipped against the U.S. dollar on Wednesday and fell to a record low against a basket of currencies after the central bank set a weaker midpoint, but tightening liquidity was expected to limit losses.

Benjamin Franklin U.S. 100 dollar banknotes and a Chinese 100 yuan banknote with the late Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong are seen in this picture illustration in Beijing, China, January 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee

The People’s Bank of China set the midpoint rate at 6.8845 per dollar prior to the market open, weaker than the previous fix of 6.8833.

The index for the yuan’s value based on the market’s traded-weighted basket fell to 92.67 on Wednesday, the lowest level since the data was available in late 2015, according to Reuters calculations based on data from the China Foreign Exchange Trade System (CFETS).

The CFETS publishes index figures on a weekly basis.

In the spot market, the yuan opened at 6.8870 per dollar and was changing hands at 6.8867 at midday, 16 pips weaker than the previous late session close and 0.03 percent softer than the midpoint.

With the yuan so rangebound lately, traders said they had to be more nimble to take advantage of slight price swings.

The onshore yuan is expected to remain steady in the short term, some market watchers said, noting that China’s Politburo, a top decision-making body of the ruling Communist Party, said on Tuesday that it would “pay close attention to fending off financial risks”.

Some analysts also attributed the steadier yuan to tighter cash conditions in the country’s money markets.

The Shanghai Interbank Offered Rate (SHIBOR) for overnight tenor, a gauge that measures liquidity in China, climbed to a fresh two-year high of 2.7590 percent, 0.76 basis points higher than the previous close.

The seven-day and 14-day rates were also up on Wednesday.

In the offshore market, the yuan fell past 6.89 per dollar level and was trading 0.06 percent weaker than its onshore counterpart at 6.8909 as of midday.

In contrast to the liquidity tightness onshore, offshore conditions were loose and pulling the offshore spot rate lower.

“CNH liquidity conditions remained flush, probably due to resurfacing cross-border flow after easing capital outflow controls,” Ken Cheung, Asian FX strategist at Mizuho Bank in Hong Kong said.

China’s central bank has relaxed its management of cross-border capital flows put in place just months ago to shore up the yuan currency, and is no longer demanding that banks match outflows with equal inflows, banking sources told Reuters last week.

The Thomson Reuters/HKEX Global CNH index, which tracks the offshore yuan against a basket of currencies on a daily basis, stood at 93.66, weaker than the previous day’s 93.73.

The global dollar index stayed flat at 98.785 from the previous close of 98.785.

Offshore one-year non-deliverable forwards contracts (NDFs), considered the best available proxy for forward-looking market expectations of the yuan’s value, traded at 7.0685, 2.60 percent weaker than the midpoint.

One-year NDFs are settled against the midpoint, not the spot rate.

Reporting by Winni Zhou and John Ruwitch; Editing by Kim Coghill