China’s call for a new international reserve currency may signal its concern at the dollar’s weakness and ambitions for a leadership role at next week’s Group of 20 summit, economists said.
Central bank Governor Zhou Xiaochuan this week urged the International Monetary Fund to create a “super-sovereign reserve currency.” The dollar weakened after the Federal Reserve said it would buy Treasuries and the U.S. government outlined plans to buy illiquid bank assets
“China is concerned about the potential for a slide in the dollar as the U.S. attempts to stimulate its economy,” said Mark Williams, a London-based economist at Capital Economics Ltd. The “rare” sight of a Chinese official attempting to reframe an international debate may be “a sign of China becoming more engaged,” he said.
Zhou’s comments may also signal ambitions for the yuan to play a bigger global role. The central bank this week signed a currency swap with Indonesia, adding to agreements since December with South Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Belarus. It’s also preparing for trade settlement in the Chinese currency with Hong Kong, Macau and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
“There is concern and even frustration among top policymakers in Beijing about China’s high exposure to U.S. dollar-denominated financial assets,” said Brian Jackson, senior strategist at Royal Bank of Canada in Hong Kong.
Yuan forwards rose the most in three months with traders betting on appreciation for the first time since September on speculation that the U.S. policies will weaken the dollar. The 12-month forward rate gained 0.9 percent.