SHANGHAI, June 8 (Reuters) - China's yuan eased against the U.S. dollar on Thursday after the central bank set its official guidance lower for the first time since it changed the currency's midpoint mechanism last week. The China Foreign Exchange Trade System (CFETS) trading platform, overseen by the People's Bank of China (PBOC), said last Friday that a "counter-cyclical factor" would be introduced into the way it calculates the yuan's reference rate each day allowing it to better reflect supply and demand. Before the market open, the PBOC fixed the midpoint weaker at 6.7930 per dollar, snapping six sessions of firmer settings. The midpoint was 72 pips weaker than the previous fix of 6.7858. In the spot market, the yuan opened at 6.7986 per dollar and was changing hands at 6.7959 at midday, 14 pips weaker than the previous late session close and 0.04 percent softer than the midpoint. Traders said bank clients continued to purchase the greenback in morning trade, but market participants were mostly quiet ahead of Britain's general election and European Central Bank policy decision later on Thursday. The Federal Reserve's monetary policy meeting next week was also in focus. China's better-than-expected trade data, suggesting the economy was holding up well, was largely taken in stride. Traders said the solid export and import figures for May despite falling commodity prices, did not affect spot yuan. Instead, dollar demand was closely watched. Companies traditionally have rising demand for the dollar in June as foreign firms start to repatriate profits overseas and domestic firms begin to purchase dollars to square books ahead of the quarter-end. Gao Qi, FX strategist at Scotiabank in Singapore, expected the yuan to stabilize after its recent surge. "The yuan exchange rate is likely to remain relatively steady compared to a basket of currencies and trade in a catch-up mode from time to time," he said. China's foreign exchange reserves rose in May for a fourth consecutive month and by more than markets had expected, data showed on Wednesday, as stringent capital control measures and a weakening in the dollar helped staunch outflows. Reserves rose $24 billion in May to a seven-month high of $3.054 trillion, compared with an increase of $21 billion in April, central bank data showed. Analysts said they would wait for additional data including the central bank's FX positions and commercial banks' net FX sales for a clear picture of capital flows last month. Separately, Huang Yiping, a member of the central bank's monetary policy committee, told a forum in Beijing that an inflexible foreign exchange rate would limit the opening of the economy and yuan internationalization. The Thomson Reuters/HKEX Global CNH index, which tracks the offshore yuan against a basket of currencies on a daily basis, stood at 94.43, firmer than the previous day's 94.34. The global dollar index fell to 96.741 from the previous close of 96.748. The offshore yuan was trading 0.33 percent firmer than the onshore spot at 6.7738 per dollar. 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 6.9455, 2.20 percent weaker than the midpoint. One-year NDFs are settled against the midpoint, not the spot rate.
The yuan market at 0404 GMT:
Item Current Previous Change PBOC midpoint 6.793 6.7858 -0.11% Spot yuan 6.7959 6.7945 -0.02% Divergence from 0.04%
Spot change YTD 2.22% Spot change since 2005 21.79%
Item Current Previous Change Thomson 94.43 94.34 0.1
Reuters/HKEX CNH index
Dollar index 96.741 96.748 0.0
*Divergence of the dollar/yuan exchange rate. Negative number indicates that spot yuan is trading stronger than the midpoint. The People's Bank of China (PBOC) allows the exchange rate to rise or fall 2 percent from official midpoint rate it sets each morning.
OFFSHORE CNH MARKET
Instrument Current Difference
Offshore spot yuan 6.7738 0.33% * Offshore 6.9455 -2.20%
*Premium for offshore spot over onshore
**Figure reflects difference from PBOC's official midpoint, since non-deliverable forwards are settled against the midpoint. .
(Reporting by Winni Zhou and John Ruwitch; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)