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China's yuan to post biggest quarterly rise against dollar in a decade

SHANGHAI, March 30 (Reuters) - China's yuan firmed against the dollar on Friday and is set to post its biggest quarterly gain in a decade, as the country attracts capital inflows and U.S. trade frictions bolstered expectations of a firmer Chinese currency. Taking cues from a firmer mid-point set by China's central bank, the yuan opened at 6.2870 per dollar in the spot market and was changing hands at 6.2695 at midday. Barring a sharp pullback later in the session, the yuan is likely to post its highest closing level since Aug. 10, 2015, capping its fifth consecutive quarterly gains, with an appreciation of around 3.7 percent during the March quarter. The yuan's biggest quarterly gain since early 2008 comes amid increasing signs China's economy has stabilized, whetting foreign appetite for Chinese assets. Late on Thursday, China's top five lenders reported strong performance and expected business conditions to continue to improve this year, as Beijing's structural reforms bore fruit while a crackdown on shadow financing reduced systemic risks.

"If you look at top banks' results, China's economy is not as bad as some had expected," said Tang Xiangbin, an analyst at China Minsheng Corp. Tang said that since last year, capital has been gradually flowing back towards China, and that this trend was likely to continut "as China further deregulates its capital markets." The Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate Index will include Chinese yuan-denominated government and policy bank securities starting next year, Bloomberg said earlier this month. Starting June, global index publisher MSCI will include China stocks into its emerging market benchmark. Caitong International attributed the recent yuan strength partly to the newly-launched crude oil futures in Shanghai, which the brokerage said triggered demand for the yuan from foreign investors. On the trade front, the looming specter of a trade war between the United States and China fueled expectations that Beijing may be happy to see a stronger yuan at this stage to defuse tensions with Washington. "The market expects the yuan to strengthen as China and the U.S. negotiates to avoid a trade war," said Tang at Minsheng Bank. His view was echoed by Capital Economics, which said in a note this week that the trade tensions "may have made Chinese officials more willing to tolerate upward pressure on the renminbi generally, in a bid to appease the U.S." The Thomson Reuters/HKEX Global CNH index, which tracks the offshore yuan against a basket of currencies on a daily basis, stood at 97.9, firmer than the previous day's 97.78. The global dollar index fell to 90.012 from the previous close of 90.151. The offshore yuan was trading 0.10 percent away from the onshore spot at 6.2635 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 6.3715, 1.31 percent away from the midpoint. One-year NDFs are settled against the midpoint, not the spot rate.

The yuan market at 4:04AM GMT:

ONSHORE SPOT:

Item Current Previous Change PBOC midpoint 6.2881 6.3046 0.26% Spot yuan 6.2695 6.289 0.31% Divergence from -0.30%

midpoint*

Spot change YTD 3.79% Spot change since 2005 32.01%

revaluation

Key indexes:

Item Current Previous Change Thomson 97.9 97.78 0.1

Reuters/HKEX CNH index

Dollar index 90.012 90.151 -0.2

*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

from onshore

Offshore spot yuan 6.2635 0.10% * Offshore 6.3715 -1.31%

non-deliverable forwards

**

*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 Samuel Shen and John Ruwitch; Editing by Sam Holmes)