The Chinese yuan fell again for a second day on Wednesday as the People’s Bank of China lowered the midpoint by a further 1.6% to 6.3306 per dollar. The yuan dropped to a 4-year low as it depreciated by 1.8% from its midpoint to fall to 6.4458 per dollar in late Asian trading.
Emerging market currencies took a hit from the yuan’s slide as the Malaysian ringgit and the Indonesian rupiah fell to 17-year lows, with the Korean won and Vietnamese dong also coming under pressure.
The Australian dollar, which is often used a proxy for China’s economy, fell sharply again for a second day to a new 6-year low, extending its losses to 0.7261 against the US dollar in late Asian session. The New Zealand dollar followed its Australian counterpart lower but managed to rebound from an earlier fresh 6-year low of 0.6466 to climb to 0.6522.
The IMF welcomed China’s move to reform the daily setting of the midpoint to a more market-based system but it drew criticism from US politicians as the large trade deficit with China is a sensitive issue with the US government.
Industrial production and retail sales data out earlier today for China came below forecasts, which is consistent with recent data showing a continued slowdown in the Chinese economy. Industrial production rose 6% from a year ago in July, below expectations of a 6.6% rise and down from 6.8% in June. Retail sales also disappointed as they rose by 10.5% in July, slightly below forecasts of 10.6%. Also released was fixed-asset investments data, which slowed to 11.2% in July from 11.4% previously.
Meanwhile, Japan’s industrial production for June was revised higher to a 1.1% month-on-month increase from 0.8% in the initial estimate. The Bank of Japan minutes out today showed some members were doubtful about meeting the 2% inflation target with the current policy as they saw a weakening outlook for inflation.
Crude oil prices came under renewed pressure on Tuesday after OPEC said that production rose to a 3-year high in July and revised up its forecast for non-OPEC production for 2015. Brent crude slipped to $49.04, while WTI crude was flat at $43.09 in late Asian session.
The dollar drifted lower for much of the Asian trading after a brief surge at the start of the session. The greenback was sharply down against the yen coming off from a high of 125.27 to slide to 124.60. The euro continued to advance against both the dollar and the pound, rising to 1.1095 and 0.7119 respectively. Sterling was steadier against the dollar, trading at 1.5586 in late Asian session.
Coming up later today, UK unemployment and earnings data should bring the pound back into focus as the Bank of England keeps a close eye on the tightening slack in the labor market and its impact on wage growth. Unemployment is expected to stay steady in June but earnings growth are forecast to ease slightly. Also to watch out for on Wednesday are Eurozone industrial production figures and the JOLTS job openings data for the US.