ETFS Multi-Asset Weekly – New Chinese FX reforms prompts caution across asset classes
• Precious metals rally as industrial commodities slide on negative Chinese sentiment.
• European stocks sell-off as China reforms hit luxury goods and auto sectors.
• Chinese Renminbi devalued by nearly 5% as new reforms implemented.
The decision by the Peoples Bank of China (PBOC) to devalue its currency by a cumulative 5% last week, the most on record, and to change its fixing methodology for CNY caused a negative reaction across asset classes. Investors became more defensive, reducing positions in cyclical assets. Commodity sectors exposed to China, like energy and industrial metals, saw prices slide in a knee-jerk reaction as a result. USD weakness helped commodity markets rebound, as expectations of an interest rate hike began to be pushed further back in 2015. Many commodity prices initially declined by more than the change in the CNY/USD rate, indicating a sentiment driven change rather than a fundamental one.
Precious metals rally as industrial commodities slide on negative Chinese sentiment. WTI and Brent crude oil benchmarks fell 5.47% and 2.47%, respectively reaching the lowest level in over six years, with the devaluation of the CNY thought by many investors to be a signal of declining future demand. Significant negative sentiment over the outlook for Chinese economic growth appears to be priced in to a range of commodity markets, particularly energy and industrial metals sectors. We expect the commodity price weakness to largely transitory many prices initially declining by more (in USD terms) than the devaluation of the CNY/USD rate, indicating a sentiment driven change rather than a fundamental one. Gold and silver were the largest beneficiaries of the China FX decision, as some risk aversion took hold as investor sentiment waned.
European stocks sell-off as China reforms hit luxury goods and auto sectors. European equity benchmarks posted losses early in the trading week, in line with other major global bourses, as investors digested the potentially negative implications of a weaker Renminbi for the Chinese economy. Sectors like materials, luxury goods and autos were some of the worst affected. The surprisingly weaker Q2 GDP numbers from Germany and France also adversely affected investor sentiment. In contrast, the Chinese sharemarkets didn’t overreact to the news as many other bourses did, posting gains for the week, despite weaker-than expected numbers on industrial production and retail sales.
Chinese Renminbi devalued by nearly 5% as new reforms implemented. The significant policy change was to set the new Renminbi fixing rate at the previous day’s closing spot CNY rate. The PBOC’s move allows greater exchange rate flexibility and transparency of CNY pricing in its ongoing reform of the Renminbi and was not intended to be a ‘currency war’. We feel it shows progress towards a more market determined rate and is beneficial for its IMF SDR aspirations despite the IMF noting that the Chinese policy change has ‘no direct implications’ for its SDR review. Both the AUD and NZD lost ground on the markets expectations of more expensive exports to China crimping demand. Further softness from these two currencies is expected, with their respective central banks maintaining their easing biases. Meanwhile, the Swedish Krone was the strongest G10 performing G10 currency, after CPI numbers surprised to the upside which could keep the Riksbank from cutting rates at its next meeting.
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