China yuan falls to lowest since August 2011 versus dollar

Neelabh Chaturvedi and Leslie Shaffer
Tomohiro Ohsumi | Bloomberg | Getty Images

China's yuan dropped to its lowest level against the dollar in over four years Friday, as the central bank steadily guides the currency lower amid an economic slowdown and hefty capital outflows.

The as it's also known, fell to 6.4550 against the dollar, its lowest level since August 2011. Earlier Friday, the People's Bank of China (PBOC) had set the mid-point for the yuan at a new four and a half year low of 6.4358, down 0.2 percent from Thursday's fixing.

China's central bank lets the yuan spot rate rise or fall a maximum of 2 percent against the dollar relative to the official fixing rate.

An investor observes stock market at a stock exchange hall in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, China.
China sets yuan fixing at four-year low

Nomura's Craig Chan said the moves are in line with policymakers' repeatedly stated ultimate goal of a more market-determined exchange rate.

"There really isn't much perceived intervention in the markets," he said at a press conference Friday. Chan believes that the reason the yuan is being allowed to decline now, when the market mechanism shift was officially made in August was due to concerns over whether some debtors would struggle with external debt if the currency declined.

In the intervening months, PBOC data has indicated substantial hedging activity and concern over external debt has subsided somewhat, he said.

Even with the declines, "our view is the currency is still over valued. They want to move closer to fair value, which we perceive to be around 6.80," for the dollar-yuan pair, Chan said. Nomura expects the currency pair will hit that level by the end of 2016.

Stuttering growth in the world's second-largest economy and capital outflows have spurred expectations of further currency weakness in recent weeks.

Chinese economic growth dipped to 6.9 percent in the third quarter, dropping below the 7 percent mark for the first time since the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, sparking concerns of a hard landing in China after years of explosive growth.

Net capital outflows totaled $113 billion in November—the largest on record—according to Julian Evans-Pritchard, an economist at Capital Economics.

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