Book Review: Gaining Currency | CFA Institute Enterprising Investor

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Gaining Currency: The Rise of the Renminbi. 2016. Eswar Prasad.

Reviewed by Nick Ronalds, CFA


China is the world’s largest economic system when it comes to buying energy parity, but Chinese investments have a trivial place in most institutional portfolios. Inevitably, the prominence of Chinese monetary property in portfolios around the globe will develop considerably. Investment managers planning to enter the Chinese monetary markets will discover a wonderful information in Eswar Prasad, writer of Gaining Currency: The Rise of the Renminbi, a transparent and even fascinating account of the constructions and quirks of China’s monetary markets. Prasad, a former analysis economist on the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and now a professor at Cornell University, combines a practitioner’s technical grasp of the topic with a nonacademic readability of favor that may enlighten novices in addition to professionals skilled in Chinese finance.

Deng Xiaoping’s pragmatic, market-based financial insurance policies started remodeling China within the late 1970s, with policymakers favoring an incremental method depending on pilot applications. Successful ones have been expanded and ultimately turned nationwide coverage. Over time, nonetheless, a succession of pilot applications led to a profusion of overlapping and complicated applications, every with its personal algorithm and infrequently topic to competing regulatory jurisdictions. The problem of maintaining with all these applications is compounded by the truth that the foundations for the applications — together with, amongst many others, QFII (Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor) and RQFII (Renminbi Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor) — are periodically revised. Prasad gives sufficient historical past and outline of the foundations of the sport for a monetary skilled to know the right way to put money into China’s monetary markets and — simply as crucially — what a number of the dangers are.

The first main step within the opening of China’s monetary markets to the skin world was the introduction in 2002 of the QFII program, which permits giant, well-established international institutional buyers to put money into a variety of Chinese monetary property. In 2011 got here the RQFII program, much like QFII however based mostly on offshore renminbi (RMB) solely. Another huge step got here in 2014, when the Shanghai Stock Exchange and the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong collectively launched the Shanghai–Hong Kong Stock Connect, a significant new opening to China’s fairness markets. It was expanded in November 2016 to incorporate the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, residence to many small-cap “new economy” shares. In the spring of 2016, Chinese authorities swept away lots of the restrictions on international funding within the bond market.

Stylistically, together with concision, Prasad has a knack for storytelling that makes his account extremely readable. In the too-short first chapter, which offers with monetary historical past, we study that Chinese students have been debating the function of the state in issuing cash in 200 BC, predating by two millennia related debates by David Hume and others within the West. China later turned the primary nation to difficulty a paper forex and, beneath Kublai Khan within the 13th century, the primary to have a fiat forex. Perhaps predictably, China then turned the primary to expertise hyperinflation. More just lately, China’s forex warfare in 1930s Nanjing featured bombs, bullets, and blood within the streets.

There are just a few gaps in Prasad’s account. He says China has stored its trade charge low to spur exports. Perhaps so, however has not inflation greater than offset the renminbi’s nominal weak point, making China’s weak-currency coverage self-neutralizing in the long term, as idea would predict? A dialogue of the connection between forex coverage and inflation — and thus between forex coverage and the true trade charge — would have crammed in one of many gaps and shed extra gentle on the challenges dealing with China’s central financial institution.

Prasad gives the essential context of RMB internationalization. Currently, the proportion of China’s commerce transactions denominated in RMB stands at about 25%. The RMB has develop into a reserve forex on the stability sheets of main central banks.

Prasad is neither bullish nor bearish on China. He respectfully credit the good strides China has made in internationalizing the RMB. In October 2016, the Chinese forex was accorded the excellence of turning into the fifth forex within the IMF’s SDR (particular drawing rights) basket, with the next weight than both the British pound sterling or the Japanese yen. As China’s capital markets proceed to be liberalized and its economic system continues to develop, so too ought to the usage of the RMB as a reserve forex.

But Prasad sees little likelihood of the RMB’s displacing the US greenback within the foreseeable future. The greenback has one thing that can not be duplicated simply: its standing as a protected haven. That standing rests solidly on US establishments — an unbiased central financial institution, the rule of legislation, and political checks and balances. China’s establishments, and even the legislation itself, are subordinate to the political authorities. The greenback’s safe-haven standing makes it the primary resort in occasions of political and monetary stress. That actuality is prone to maintain the greenback dominant for years to come back.

Nick Ronalds, CFA, is managing director at ASIFMA (Asia Securities Industry & Financial Markets Association), Hong Kong.

More book reviews can be found on the CFA Institute website or within the CFA Institute Financial Analysts Journal®.

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All posts are the opinion of the writer. As such, they shouldn’t be construed as funding recommendation, nor do the opinions expressed essentially mirror the views of CFA Institute or the writer’s employer.

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