Saturday, January 22, 2011

"Do You Need a Chinese Bank Account?"

From the Wall Street Journal:
We're perfectly happy eating in a Chinese restaurant. But will we start banking in a Chinese bank?
It's not as crazy as it sounds. As The Wall Street Journal's Lingling Wei reported Wednesday, the Bank of China here in the U.S. has started allowing American customers to open an account and to invest up to $4,000 per day—and a total of $20,000 a year—in Chinese yuan, or renminbi. Until now, you had few options to hold money in yuan, which is a "closed" currency managed, and protected, by Beijing.

The bank has three U.S. branches—two in New York, and one in Los Angeles. You'll have to fill out paperwork to open an account and provide two forms of ID. And there's a minimum deposit of $500.
Is this a good idea? You may wonder why anyone would do this. Investing in Chinese currency may sound like something best left to speculators.

But in reality this may be no more exotic than, say, Peking duck. Holding some of your money in Chinese currency—as part of a diversified portfolio, as they say—might be a very sensible move for all of us.

Why? Five reasons.
It's very unlikely to go down.
It's very likely to go up.
You won't miss out on a lot of interest elsewhere, as nowhere else is paying a lot of interest.
It will diversify your portfolio.
And, finally, it may offer you and your family something of a hedge against the decline of the U.S. economy.
Let's take these in order.
• First, it's very unlikely to go down. Of how many investments can you say that? The yuan has very little room to fall farther because it is already seriously undervalued. Beijing has spent hundreds of billions of dollars keeping the currency artificially cheap for years to boost exports....MORE