It’s Official: China’s Currency Admitted to IMF Major Leagues

Stuart QuintStuart P. Quint, CFA, Senior Investment Manager & International Strategist

Here are the quick takes:

  • The IMF formally approved inclusion of the Chinese renminbi (RMB) into Special Drawing Rights (SDR)
  • Chinese RMB will not replace the U.S. dollar (USD) in the near term
  • Impact more symbolic near term, but progress will be measured over many years

The IMF formally indicated on November 30 it would include the Chinese RMB into its basket of approved reserve currencies. As stated in a previous blog, the inclusion of the RMB would appear to have limited near-term economic impact to the U.S. dollar.

Even with limited economic near-term impact, the inclusion of the RMB certainly has symbolic significance. Clearly, there is political benefit to the IMF’s recognition of the RMB in terms of enhancing China’s global prestige. The inclusion of the RMB might also serve as a carrot to deepen further structural reform as evidenced by China’s promise to have fully open capital accounts by 2020.[1]   Other countries hostile to the U.S., such as Russia and Iran, might view RMB investment as a way to hedge themselves against the risk of U.S.-led economic sanctions by conducting more trade away from the U.S. dollar.

However, the overall effects of the IMF SDR should not be overstated. The SDR is akin to a “recommended list” that cannot be enforced on central banks or markets. As an example, the weight of the USD was basically held flat at around 41%. (The new RMB weight was added at the expense mostly of the EUR). Furthermore, current holdings of central bank reserves deviate quite a bit from the SDR, with USD comprising 60% of total reserves (vs. 41% weight in the IMF SDR).[2] For comparison, central banks hold roughly 20% of reserves in EUR (vs. 31% weight in the IMF SDR). Some central banks hold currencies such as the Australian dollar (AUD) that are not in the IMF SDR.

Major potential shifts into the RMB will take place over a protracted period of years, but here are some milestones to watch:

  • Progress on further structural reform
  • Deeper liquidity in local Chinese bonds
  • Longer track record on responsible governance.

[1] http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-10-22/china-said-to-weigh-pledge-for-opening-capital-account-by-2020-ig1sbvez .

[2] http://www.wsj.com/articles/proportion-of-euros-held-in-foreign-exchange-reserves-declines-1435686071

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

Investment Insights Podcast – Here Comes the Renminbi

miller_podcast_graphicBill Miller, Chief Investment Officer

On this week’s podcast (recorded November 20, 2015), we focus on the likelihood that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will add the Renminbi (RMB) as an approved currency in its Special Drawing Rights (SDR) basket. Will this displace the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency?

What we like: We don’t believe the RMB will supplant the dollar as the favored reserve currency, at least not anytime soon; law and precedent in our judicial system is more structured and supportive–not the case in China; debt markets aren’t well-developed in China; Chinese don’t necessarily want the RMB to be a much stronger currency relative to the U.S. dollar as it would impact their ability to export; approval would likely lead to more reform in China, which would add to global stability

What we don’t like: This won’t necessarily solve China’s current growth problems; would likely have some type of ripple effect (Australian dollar)

What we’re doing about it: Standing pat; announcement may come soon, but would not take shape for another year or so; no need to rush into portfolio changes; not a major concern to the U.S. dollar at this time

Click here to listen to the audio recording

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

China Currency Admitted to IMF Major Leagues: The End of U.S. Dollar Supremacy?

Stuart QuintStuart P. Quint, CFA, Senior Investment Manager & International Strategist

On November 13, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) gave a preliminary indication that it would include the Chinese currency, the RMB, for the first time in its basket of approved reserve currencies, or Special Drawing Rights (“SDRs”). Undoubtedly, China has gained international prestige due to its partial liberalization of its capital accounts as well as its position as the second largest economy in the world after the U.S.

Does this mean the end of the supremacy of the U.S. Dollar?

60% of reserves of foreign central banks are held in U.S. Dollars.[1] Chinese RMB comprise less than 1%. While foreign central banks are likely to accumulate more RMB over time, there remains some questions as to how quickly it could rise in the near term.

First, Chinese bond markets would need to develop deeper liquidity. In order to invest in a currency, central banks would demand liquid investments denominated in the currency. Today, the U.S. bond market is magnitudes deeper than that in China.[2]

Second, it’s not in China’s best interest to immediately go to fully-free capital accounts. Exports are in decline due in part to weak global demand. The last thing the Chinese government would want to do is to put further pressure on exporter margins with a strong currency buttressed by sudden foreign capital inflows. One case in point is the August devaluation of the Chinese RMB that spooked financial markets.

While China has made progress in financial reform—partial liberalization of interest rates and opening up access to its stock markets—China has not opened up its currency to full convertibility and free capital flows.

Furthermore, recent government intervention in the stock market and economy does not provide investors assurance on long-term governance. Neither the Chinese nor the IMF can simply legislate a track record of responsible governance overnight. Time and consistency are needed to win investor confidence.

[1] http://worldif.economist.com/article/6/what-if-the-yuan-competes-with-the-dollar-clash-of-the-currencies , accessed on November 13, 2015.

[2] See http://www.wsj.com/articles/why-investors-shy-away-from-chinas-6-4-trillion-bond-market-1437593482?alg=y , accessed on November 16, 2015.

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, a Registered Investment Advisor.

The Future of the Yuan and its Impact on the Dollar

Stuart QuintStuart P. Quint, CFA, Senior Investment Manager and International Strategist

The consideration of adding the yuan, or as others may refer to it more formally as renminbi (RMB), as the fifth member to the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Special Drawing Rights (SDR) list has been debated for many years. However, while it is expected that China will eventually have its currency recognized by the (IMF), the question is timing of this conversion.

The recent crash of China’s stock market, combined with strong state intervention of measures that go against the grain of market liberalization, has the potential to delay acceptance of the yuan. That’s not to say that the central bank won’t want to proceed as proposed, but competing forces might gain strength in calling for a go-slow approach in making the decision.

In the near term, the adoption of the yuan would likely prompt U.S. dollar selling. China is experiencing weaker growth, and monetary policy is easing while the U.S. is stable to getting tighter. The appetite of central banks to dump dollars in favor of yuan will take time. However, over the long term, the yuan could be the major competing currency to the U.S. dollar–if China can conduct further structural reform that restores confidence in more sustainable growth.

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, a Registered Investment Advisor.

International Insights Podcast – Greek Tragedy Revisited After the Referendum

Stuart Quint, Investment Insights PodcastStuart P. Quint, CFA, Senior Investment Manager and International Strategist

This audio podcast was recorded July 6, 2015:

Stuart’s podcast provides an update on Greece following this weekend’s referendum vote.

Highlights of the discussion include:

  • Greece itself is a known issue; however, secondary contagion impacts are not known
  • More caution on Europe; potential fallout on other risk markets
  • Areas to watch: level of EUR, peripheral bond spreads and politics

Click here to listen to the full audio recording

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, a Registered Investment Advisor.

International Insights Podcast – Greece: How Bad Is It?

Stuart Quint, Investment Insights PodcastStuart P. Quint, CFA, Senior Investment Manager and International Strategist

This audio podcast was recorded June 29, 2015:

Not surprisingly, Stuart’s podcast this week features the unnerving situation in Greece and the ripple effect it may have on a global scale.

Highlights of the discussion include:

In short…

  • The breakdown in negotiations between Greece and its creditors justifiably disappointed the markets.
  • Our sense is the end of the world has not come yet.
    • Primary links to Europe and world economy appear small and manageable.
    • Secondary links to Europe are murkier but not visible near term.
  • Watch economics and politics in peripheral Europe for further direction.

So, what about the near-term?

  • Do not underestimate Europe’s ability to prolong the agony (though it appears they are trying to force Greece’s hand even with the announced July 5 referendum).
  • Multiple scenarios could happen:
    • Best case is that Greece gets new government more willing to cut a deal
    • Worst case is Grexit and passive EU institutions

Does that mean it’s time to panic?

  • Primary links appear relatively minor and obvious
    • Most of Greece’s €340bn debt held by large government institutions (ECB, EU, IMF)
    • Direct trade links are small
    • Greek economy is small relative to Europe and the world
  • Secondary impacts less clear
    • Near-term hit to European confidence and economic growth
    • Medium-term credibility issue to the euro as a concept – in event of Grexit, should we worry about who is next?
      • Examples:
        • Italy – lower popular political support for euro (though ruling coalition supports Euro)
        • Spain – pending 4Q15 elections (one opposition party Podemos with minority of votes considers itself kindred to the ruling Greek Syriza party)
        • France – greater need for fiscal tightening, most popular anti-Euro populist party in LePen National Front

What to keep an eye on if things are getting worse or better

  • The euro
  • Peripheral bond spreads (Italy, Spain vs. Germany)
  • Greek referendum (Does it even happen? “Yes” a good result, but does it result in new negotiations and/or change of government?)
  • Popularity of other populist political parties in other parts of Europe (Spain, France, Italy)

Click here to listen to the full audio recording

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, a Registered Investment Advisor.

Investment Insights Podcast – Unrest in Ukraine and Investment Implications

Stuart Quint, Investment Insights PodcastStuart P. Quint, CFA, Senior Investment Manager and International Strategist

Stuart joins us this week to share some comments on the developing situation in Ukraine and its impact on investors.  Click the play button below to listen in to his podcast, or read a summarized version of his thoughts below.

Podcast recorded March 3, 2014:

Ukraine’s struggles are overwhelming. Political, economic, and now military challenges confront the country. Politically and militarily speaking, the U.S. and the European Union (EU) have few tools at this time and modest willpower to oppose Russian intentions in Ukraine. And given that the ruling government is merely a caretaker for the May elections, it seems unlikely there will be a bailout package offered by the International Money Fund (IMF) any time soon. Default on existing international and local obligations appears likely in the near term.

Russia is not without its own constraints, though, as the Russian economy is directly tied to Europe. Three out of every four dollars of foreign direct investment in Russia come from Europe.[1]  The EU also remains Russia’s most important trading partner with 55% of Russian exports destined for Europe.[2]

Let’s take a look at the potential scenarios: (1) Russian annexation of the Crimea, (2) negotiated settlement with later elections that would most likely bring about a grand coalition government, probably with leanings toward Moscow, and (3) military escalation (civil war, Russian forces occupy eastern Ukraine, either of which results in a smaller Ukraine or outright disintegration as a sovereign state).

So what investment implications might this have? (1) The near term is helpful for fixed income, with commodities benefiting from any disruption of supply (oil, gas) and flight to safety (gold), and (2) negative impact most of all for European (Russia supplies 30% of European gas supply[3]) and emerging markets (mainly Russia, but also other markets with the need to import capital could suffer from currency weakness and higher interest rates demanded by investors).

A negotiated settlement involving recognition of Russian claims in exchange for a roadmap to stabilize the rest of Ukraine would reverse many of these trends.  Indeed, a similar situation occurred when Russia invaded Georgia in August 2008, but the crisis in Ukraine has potentially more serious implications given its proximity to Western Europe and that it carries a large population of over 45 million people.[4]

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are for informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change.

Growth Fears Weigh On Shares

Joe Preisser

The rally in global equities, which has carried share prices to heights unreached since 2008, stalled last week as the marketplace struggled to evaluate the current risks facing the world economy.  Stocks listed from Europe to the United States slipped as concerns of a slowdown in global growth were drawn into focus.

The selling arrived in the wake of the release of a dour assessment of the world’s economy by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) last  Monday and accelerated following a disappointing start to corporate earnings season.  Citing potential problems on both sides of the Atlantic, the IMF lowered its projection for the expansion of global growth to 3.3% for this year, and 3.6% for 2013 (Bloomberg News).   The International Monetary Fund specifically highlighted the lingering effects of the European sovereign debt crisis, as well as the political gridlock in the United States, as risks that hold the potential to destabilize global financial markets (New York Times).  In a reflection of the difficulties created by the lack of a substantive policy response by the Spanish Government to the current rash of problems confronting the country, Standard & Poor’s on Wednesday lowered the nation’s sovereign debt rating  two notches to BBB- and downgraded their outlook to negative.

Earnings season saw it’s unofficial start last week as Aluminum manufacturing giant, Alcoa Inc.* reported results for the third quarter, which exceeded analysts’ estimates.  Although the company’s revenue and per-share numbers were better than expected, a drop in their forecast of global demand for the heavily used industrial metal sent its stock price markedly lower last Wednesday.  Following on the heels of Alcoa’s disappointing comments, the engine manufacturer, Cummins Inc. declared that it was lowering its profit projections for the remainder of the year as a result of waning demand (Wall Street Journal).  The outlook for the global economy offered by these two manufacturing behemoths highlights the challenges currently facing investors, as they struggle to weigh the risks of an economic deceleration against the coordinated efforts of several of the world’s most powerful Central Banks to maintain expansion.

*Shown for illustrative purposes only.  This is not a security holding of Brinker Capital.