CHINA / National

Businesses can hold on to more forex
By Feng Jie (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-04-06 06:01

China is shifting from stockpiling foreign exchange reserves in State coffers to letting businesses and residents hold more foreign currency, a top central bank official said yesterday.

Wu Xiaoling, vice governor of the People's Bank of China. [newsphoto file]
The policy adjustment will help reduce pressure on the authorities to mop up excess liquidity in the forex market to enforce the trading band of the renminbi exchange rate, analysts say.

Wu Xiaoling, deputy governor of the People's Bank of China (PBOC), said: "A deficit in international balance of payments is not good, but too big a surplus is not helpful either."

"Therefore we must readjust the economic structure," she said, adding that the forex policy should be adjusted accordingly.

China is not pursuing huge forex reserves, Wu said.

She stressed that the new policy stance is having more forex reserves "held by," instead of "hidden among," the people, clarifying misinterpretations in some recent media reports.

As foreign trade surpluses continued to grow, China's official reserves rose to US$853.6 billion at the end of February, reportedly overtaking Japan as the biggest holder for the first time.

The rapid increases in China's reserves resulted from policies that encouraged foreign direct investment and exports, as well as a forex administration regime that keeps tight controls on outflows but imposes little restriction on inflows, Wu said.

The changes in a nation's forex reserves eventually reflect its macroeconomic performance and international payments, and there is no scientific method to measure the appropriate level, she said.

Continued trade surpluses and inflow of foreign investment in recent years have led to rapid accumulation of China's forex reserves, a scarce commodity at a time of rigid central planning.

Expectations of a stronger renminbi only fuelled the trend, with speculative capital flowing in and businesses taking more forex loans. Speculation of a further revaluation of renminbi remains strong in the marketplace even after China revalued the currency, which some trading partners complain is undervalued, by 2 per cent against the US dollar last July.

The rapid forex increases have been forcing the central bank to issue more local currency to buy the excess dollars and enforce the trading band of the renminbi, complicating monetary policy operations at a time of ample liquidity in the banking system.

Wu noted the central bank has taken a slew of measures to loosen capital controls, which allow businesses to keep more forex and sell less to banks. It also allows individuals to buy more forex from banks for such purposes as overseas travel and studies.

(China Daily 04/06/2006 page1)


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