Has China Quietly Joined the Currency War?

Photo Credit: Getty ImagesChina has been less vocal than other major economies in recent weeks in voicing discontent about a sharp slide in the yen, which means stronger currencies elsewhere. Yet, Beijing is taking action of its own to head off unwanted pressure on the yuan to appreciate.

The Chinese yuan, also known as the renminbi, fell on Thursday to its weakest level since late December. In fact, the yuan has been creeping down since January 14, when it hit a record high against the U.S. dollar at about 6.21, as China’s central bank steps up its intervention in the foreign exchange markets to curb yuan appreciation.

“It is disappointing for anyone looking for yuan gains,” said Sean Callow, senior currency strategist at Westpac Bank in Sydney. “The leash on the yuan has been tightening, probably because of the decline in the yen and also the decline in the (South Korean) won and the Taiwan dollar and in that environment it’s tough for China to allow currency gains that would hurt its competitive edge.”

The yen has tumbled against all major currencies since the start of the year, falling roughly 10 percent against the dollar and the euro, amid growing expectations of aggressive monetary policy from Japan, now on a concerted bid to revive a weak economy and end years of deflation.

The won meanwhile has eased about 2.5 percent against the dollar since the start of 2013, while the Taiwan dollar is down about 2 percent.

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