China’s yuan inched down against the dollar on Friday after the central bank fixed a slightly softer midpoint, but looked set for a solid weekly gain.
Data published by the Chinese central bank late on Thursday indicated its foreign exchange assets, a barometer of currency flows resulted from central bank intervention in the foreign exchange market, decreased by 644.5 billion yuan ($99 billion) in January, its second biggest monthly fall.
“The fall suggests the central bank was spending its foreign reserves to defend the yuan’s value last month,” said a trader at a Chinese commercial bank in Shanghai.
On Friday, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) set the midpoint rate at 6.5186 per dollar prior to market open, only 0.05 percent weaker than the previous fix of 6.5152.
The spot market opened at 6.5190 per dollar and was changing hands at 6.5203 at midday, also easing 0.05 percent from the previous close.
If the yuan closes around the midday level, it would have strengthened 0.8 percent since the close on Feb. 5, and pared its year-to-date drop to around 0.4 percent from 1.5 percent in early January.
China’s foreign exchange market was closed last week for the Lunar New Year holiday, during which the dollar weakened in global markets. The yuan has played catch up to strengthen this week as trading resumed.
In a related development, the PBOC has intensified some of its liquidity operations as it looks to implement more targeted ways to support the economy that don’t cause dramatic swings in its currency and markets.
The PBOC said late on Thursday it would conduct open market operations every working day as needed starting Feb. 18, giving it more flexibility in its efforts to juice the banking system without needing to resort to broad interest rate cuts and thus putting downward pressure on the yuan.
The offshore yuan was trading 0.11 percent weaker than the onshore spot at 6.5275 per dollar.
The yuan remained flat against the euro by midday at 7.2523. It softened 0.7 percent against the Japanese yen, hovering at 5.7760 to 100 yen.