China’s leading state media are becoming more vociferous in their support for the yuan, having been fired up in the past week by George Soros’s observation that the economy is headed for a hard landing.
Yuan short sellers “haven’t done their homework,” the state-run Xinhua News Agency said in an English-language article on Wednesday, while a People’s Daily commentary in Chinese declared that such trades will undoubtedly fail. The two editorials, in addition to at least three other articles published by Xinhua since the weekend, all argue the economy is growing at a decent pace.
China is resorting to stepped-up rhetoric to help offset depreciation expectations after the yuan started the new year with the biggest weekly plunge since a devaluation in August. The cost of steadying the exchange rate has shot up as a slowing economy, equity market turmoil, declining foreign-exchange reserves and surging capital outflows add to the pessimism.
“They can write as many op-eds as they want, but two plus two doesn’t make five,” said Michael Every, head of financial markets research at Rabobank Group in Hong Kong, whose year-end 7.53 forecast for the yuan against the dollar is the most bearish in a Bloomberg survey of 41 analysts. "What they’re saying won’t put off speculators. The fundamentals are screaming and sending a clear picture that if economic growth doesn’t start picking up, the exchange rate will weaken."
Soros said in a Bloomberg Television interview from the World Economic Forum in Davos that he’s been betting against Asian currencies because a hard landing in China is “practically unavoidable.” Xinhua retorted by saying that his observations are the result of "partial blindness."
The billionaire investor rose to fame as the money manager who broke the Bank of England in 1992, netting a profit of $1 billion with a wager that the U.K. would be forced to devalue the pound. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad called him a “moron” during the 1997 Asian financial crisis, saying he was out to wreck the region’s economies.
“Given how people know Soros and what he did in 1992 and during the 1997-1998 Asian crisis, he’s too important to ignore, so China felt that they had to counter any negative comments,” said Tommy Xie, a Singapore-based economist at Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp., who was cited by Xinhua as saying that the People’s Bank of China has become more predictable. “They have to reassure local savers and show them a willingness that the government is looking after them and their savings.”
China’s foreign-exchange reserves plunged by a record $513 billion last year to $3.33 trillion as the nation sold the greenback to prop up the yuan. Bloomberg Intelligence estimates that about $1 trillion of capital left the nation in 2015, underscoring the scale of the battle facing policy makers as they struggle to boost an economy growing at the slowest pace since 1990.
The yuan, which is set to enter the International Monetary Fund’s reserves basket this October, is poised for a third monthly decline, dropping 1.3 percent so far in January to 6.5786 a dollar as of 5:41 p.m. in Shanghai. The currency traded in Hong Kong’s offshore market has fallen 6 percent since the August devaluation.