Yuan Slides After PBOC, Dollar Little Changed on MLK Day

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LONDON/SINGAPORE—The yuan fell on Monday to a one-month low after China’s central bank surprised markets by keeping its medium-term policy rate steady, while the dollar was little changed on Martin Luther King (MLK) Jr. Day, a public holiday.

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) left interest rates unchanged when rolling over maturing medium-term policy loans, defying market expectations for a cut to shore up China’s bumpy post-pandemic economic recovery.

That sent the onshore yuan sliding to a one-month low of 7.1813 per dollar before recouping some of those losses to trade down 0.08 percent at 7.1749.

Its offshore counterpart fell as far as 7.1906 per dollar, languishing near Friday’s one-month trough.

“China’s central bank kept its medium-term lending facility rate unchanged at 2.5 percent, contrary to the widespread consensus of a 10 basis points cut,” said Tommy Wo, senior economist at Commerzbank.

However, rate cuts are still on the table, he added.

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“The U.S. Fed’s pivot has allowed the PBoC to conduct more accommodative monetary policy. There will be more room for PBoC rate cuts when the timing of Fed’s rate reduction becomes clearer.”

China’s fourth-quarter gross domestic product (GDP), December industrial production, retail sales, and unemployment rate are among the key economic indicators out on Wednesday, which are likely to provide further clarity on the outlook for the world’s second-largest economy.

The dollar index, measuring the U.S. currency against six peers, was little changed up 0.07 percent to 102.58, ahead of the U.S. Martin Luther King Day holiday on Monday.

Bets for Fed cuts this year, beginning as early as March, have risen after data on Friday showed U.S. producer prices unexpectedly fell in December, sending Treasury yields sliding in response.

“Despite the upside surprise to the CPI on Thursday, investors grew increasing confident that the Fed is likely to cut rates soon,” said Jim Reid, strategist at Deutsch Bank.

Market pricing now points to a 77 percent chance that the U.S. central bank will begin easing rates in March, as compared to a 68 percent chance a week ago, according to the CME FedWatch tool.

In the broader market, traders also have their eye on a reading on UK inflation due later in the week, as the market focus remains on how soon major central banks globally could begin easing rates this year.

Sterling slipped 0.2 percent to $1.2725, though it remained close to a two-week peak hit last week.

The euro hovered near the $1.10 mark and was last flat on the day at $1.0946.

In Asia, the yen remained under pressure, down 0.5 percent at 145.69 per dollar on expectations that the Bank of Japan is likely to keep its ultra-loose policy settings unchanged at its upcoming policy meeting next week.

Taiwan After the Election

Elsewhere, the Taiwan dollar fell to a more than three-week low of 31.284 per U.S. dollar, after the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) Lai Ching-te won the presidency over the weekend, though his party lost its majority in parliament

Analysts expect Taiwan’s stock market to take a hit this week as the spectre of policy paralysis fuels selling in a market that is up 25 percent in little more than a year.

“DPP lost the majority in the parliament. Hence Lai is ruling with a weaker mandate than Tsai Ing-wen,” said Allan von Mehren, director at Danske Bank.

He expects continued tensions in the Taiwan Strait but not a further escalation.

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