Saturday, February 6, 2016

Société Générale's Albert Edwards On The Upcoming Chinese Devaluation--Updated

Update below.
Original post:

China will report the status of their foreign currency reserves on Sunday with the median guess estimate for the January outflow at $118 billion and a range of $38 to $180 billion and a more probable range of $80 to $140 billion.
Just to make things interesting, Chinese markets will be closed next week to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

Two quick notes:

1) Albert Edwards is better at credit and currency analysis than he is at equities but it's with the 'S&P to 666' stuff that he keeps his employer's name in the headlines. He knows it and SocGen knows it.

2) Currency interventions by sovereigns only work when done at turning points, they can't just dig in their heels and say "here and no further". If a country doesn't time the move correctly they almost inevitably burn through their foreign exchange reserves and end up facing the same problem or worse at some point down the road.

Here's the ValueWalk version of the story, Feb. 5:

Albert Edwards: The PBoC Is Running Out Of Time Only “Months Left” To Stop Collapse
China’s FX reserves could fall to $2.8 trillion, the lower end of the IMF’s recommended range within a few months, which could spark a tidal wave of speculative selling, forcing the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) to throw in the towel and let the market decide the level of the renminbi exchange rate — that’s according to Société Générale’s perma-bear Albert Edwards.

In this week's issue of Société Générale's Global Strategy research note, Edwards writes that "China has burned through almost $800bn of its FX reserves mountain since it peaked at almost $4 trillion in mid-2014. January’s FX data to be released this weekend is set to register another sharp drop of $120bn (consensus estimate)." He goes on:
"But at $3.2bn the market remains content that massive firepower remains to support the renminbi. It does not. Our economists estimate that when FX reserves reach $2.8 trillion – which should only take a few more months at this rate – FX reserves will fall below the IMF’s recommended lower bound. If that occurs in the next few months, expect to see a tidal wave of speculative selling, forcing the PBoC to throw in the towel and let the market decide the level of the renminbi exchange rate."
china PBoC fx 2
Edwards' view is based on the predictions of Société Générale's China economist Wei Yao. Wei Yao has written that in her view, the PBoC might, “move to a free-float within six months, after burning through a significant amount of FX reserves."

The PBoC is running out of time
Both Yao and Edwards' doom-mongering is based on the level of China's FX reserves. China has been depleting its FX reserves in an effort to slow the pace of currency depreciation. However, if the country continues to spend its reserves at the current rate, FX reserves will fall through the $2.8 trillion level that the IMF believes is the lowest acceptable level. The IMF's 'lowest acceptable' reserves level is based on four specific elements that reflect potential drains on the balance of payments: (1) exports, (2) broad money, (3) short-term external debt, and (4) other liabilities (long-term external debt and portfolio liabilities). Société Générale's analysts believe that (assuming the level of short-term external debt at remaining maturity was unchanged from year-end 2014) China’s reserves are at 118% of the recommended level (estimated to be $2.8 trillion).
china PBoC fx 1
If China's reserves fall below the key $2.8 trillion level, the market could lose confidence in the PBoC’s ability to resist currency depreciation and manage future balance of payments shocks. Only two major emerging market countries (Malaysia and South Africa) have reserves that are below the IMF’s recommended range and many EM countries now have a more robust reserve balance than China in terms of the percentage above the IMF's recommended minimum....MORE
Update: "Now, The Positives Of China's Foreign Exchange Drawdowns"