China plans to ask Fed about US rates

Didn’t your mother ever tell you that if you want something, just ask for it?

Well, the Chinese want to know whether the US Federal Reserve Bank will be raising interest rates at its meeting next month, just like the rest of the world. However, Chinese officials will actually be able to grab a little private time with the US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Fed Chair Janet Yellen a week before the Fed’s next policy meeting. So, they’re going to ask “What’s happening?” people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.

A People’s Bank of China press officer later denied to Bloomberg that China plans to ask about the timing of a Fed rate hike.

The annual US-China Strategic and Economic dialogue talks are scheduled for June 6-7 in Beijing. The Fed meets on June 15. Interest-rate futures currently show a 34% chance the US central bank will lift the federal funds rate to 0.5% from its current target range of 0.25%.

Consulting on policy decisions would be in keeping with a pledge that both China and the US made as members of the Group of 20. After a Shanghai meeting in February, G-20 finance chiefs pledged to consult closely and “clearly communicate our macroeconomic and structural policy actions to reduce policy uncertainty” and minimize spillovers, reported Bloomberg.

It’s not unusual for senior officials to press each other on their policies, said Bloomberg, and any inquiries by the Chinese about the Fed would follow repeated expressions of concern from the US about China’s intentions with its exchange rate. The Treasury Department put China on a new currency watch list last month to monitor for unfair trade advantages.

Already expectations of a US rate hike have weakened China’s exchange rate. Just this month, the Chinese currency has fallen about 1.2%. On Wednesday, the yuan traded near a three-month low after China’s central bank set the weakest reference rate in five years.

“Chinese officials are pretty anxious about the Fed as a June rate hike — which is not fully discounted in the market — may boost the dollar,” Shen Jianguang, chief Asia economist at Mizuho Securities Asia in Hong Kong told Bloomberg. “This could pose a threat or make it difficult for the PBOC to keep a stable (yuan) exchange rate. A less aggressive Fed stance is in China’s interest.”

In recent years, Fed policy makers before making their policy decisions have increasingly taken into consideration of the potential of international ramifications.

“The Federal Reserve will make its decision solely on what it deems best for the US economy, but it is clear that concerns about China have influenced its thinking about the balance of risks facing the US,” Mark Williams, chief Asia economist at Capital Economics in London, told Bloomberg.



Categories: Asia Unhedged, China

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