Yuan closes weaker, PBOC enforces stability
* Corporate yuan demand remains strong
* PBOC sets weaker midpoint even with overnight fall in USD
* Light-touch c.bank intervention may be ongoing
* Offshore premium gone as appreciation expectations fade
(Updates to close) SHANGHAI, Jan 28 (Reuters) - China's yuan closed mildly softer on Monday, despite a fall in the dollar overnight, as traders say the central bank appears committed to keeping the exchange rate stable at least through the Lunar New Year holiday. The People's Bank of China (PBOC) reinforced its preference for stability by setting its daily midpoint weaker on Monday, reversing its usual practice of setting a firmer fixing in response to an overnight fall in the dollar. The euro was near an 11-month high versus the dollar touched on Friday after the European Central Bank said banks would pay back a greater-than-expected 137 billion euros in loans this week. Traders are uncertain whether the PBOC is still intervening in the market to prevent yuan appreciation, as it was widely suspected of doing in mid-December. In November and early December, yuan appreciation expectations became entrenched, and dollar bids disappeared from the market. The central bank eventually intervened to restore yuan liquidity to the market. Data released on Friday illustrated the dash for yuan in December, as it showed that Chinese corporates bought $54 billion more worth of Chinese currency than they sold that month. That marked the largest monthly excess corporate yuan demand in at least two years. Traders say client demand for yuan has remained strong in January, prompting some to suspect that large state banks, acting on behalf of the central bank, may still be buying dollars on an ad hoc basis to prevent the yuan from gaining sharply. Adding to this suspicion is the fact that the yuan is consistently trading close to the top-end limit of its daily trading band but without breaching it. However, traders say that such small-scale, ad hoc interventions are nearly impossible to confirm. Reflecting the recent reduction in yuan appreciation expectations, the premium for offshore yuan in Hong Kong has evaporated over the last 10 days. The offshore premium surged in late November and closed at an 11-month peak on Jan. 10. But the offshore yuan had slipped to a slightly discount by late Monday afternoon.
The onshore spot yuan market at a glance:
Item Current Previous Change close (pct) PBOC midpoint 6.2818 6.2805 -0.02 Spot yuan 6.2226 6.2205 -0.03 USD/CNY rate divergence -0.94
Spot change ytd +0.1 Spot change since 2005 +33.0
* The People's Bank of China (PBOC) allows the dollar/yuan exchange rate to rise or fall 1 percent from the official midpoint rate it sets each morning.
OFFSHORE CNH MARKET
The offshore yuan market at a glance:
Instrument Current Difference from
Offshore spot yuan 6.2280 -0.09*Offshore non-deliverable 6.3010 -0.51**
* The difference between onshore spot and the onshore spot
** Offshore one-year non-deliverable forwards (NDFs) reflect market expectations for appreciation or depreciation of PBOC's official midpoint.
MARKET DRIVERS --Forces underpinning yuan rally to lose steam in 2013
--Spot yuan has rallied strongly since late July 2012, and the PBOC is using its daily midpoint to restrain further appreciation. GRAPHIC: http://link.reuters.com/pyx74t --China's trade surplus surged in late 2012, but the surge was mainly due to weak imports rather than strong exports. GRAPHIC: http://link.reuters.com/qav68s --Corporate yuan purchases have strongly exceeded dollar purchases in recent months, as yuan appreciation expectations have revived. GRAPHIC: http://link.reuters.com/syx74t
--Hot money outflows may be putting downward pressure on the yuan. GRAPHIC: http://link.reuters.com/saz74t --Despite relatively stable dollar/yuan exchange rate, the yuan is appreciating on a trade-weighted basis. GRAPHIC: http://link.reuters.com/sed74t
(Editing by Jacqueline Wong)