By Jeff Desjardins, Visual Capitalist
In the grand scheme of things, China’s mid-August currency devaluation spree was a drop in the bucket. Since the Financial Crisis, countries have routinely printed money, kept rates pegged artificially low, and found other ways to get temporary competitive advantages with cheaper currency.
While the People’s Bank of China has made some questionable interventions, China’s currency itself has been pegged to the US dollar officially or unofficially since its early history. With the US dollar climbing wildly against most global currencies since mid-2014, the yuan climbed along with it. China’s currency appreciated against all other major Asian currencies, which erased the country’s manufacturing cost advantage and trade surplus. In retrospect, it is almost surprising that they kept the reference rate where it was for this long.
The strong reaction from markets and media was more from the angle that even slightest movement made by China can create a ripple effect on fragile global markets. China, for a better lack of an analogy, is a bull in a china shop. Its economy and currency are seen as important bellwethers and when the PBOC makes an announcement, people listen.
That’s why in mid-summer, markets got volatile in a hurry. China devalued its currency by 1.9% on August 11 and made some smaller changes since then. The country also announced adjustments to how it would calculate its onshore reference rate moving forward.
Today’s infographic looks at the reaction in currency markets in three timeframes after the event: 24 hours, one week, and one month after.
Some currencies, like the euro, appreciated against the Chinese Renminbi right away and maintained that momentum. The euro went up 2.06% in the first day, and then continued to appreciate to 5.73% by the end of 30 days. Others swung back and forth wildly: at first the South African rand was up 0.71%, but then it ended as the biggest loser against the yuan at -4.24% over the course of a month.
Despite the mixed reaction from different currency markets, the reason China did this was clear. The country wanted to promote convergence in its onshore and offshore rates, and it has also been trying to woo the IMF for some time to be included in the IMF’s basket of reserve currencies called Special Drawing Rights. The latter move is a part of China’s posturing to eventually better internationalize the yuan.
As a side benefit of the devaluation, China also gets temporary relief in promoting exports at a cheaper price – though this will only last until the next country takes action in the game of currency war hot potato.