GEITHNER IN BEIJING TALKS AS YUAN SPECULATION MOUNTS
The yuan and other Asian currencies rose briskly on Thursday as speculation intensified that China might soon revalue the yuan and unveil a long-awaited shift in its exchange-rate regime, Reuters reported.
The New York Times reported that Beijing was very close to announcing a 'small but immediate' revaluation and would then let the currency fluctuate more widely.
The dispatch from Hong Kong, which quoted people with knowledge of the policy consensus emerging in Beijing, coincided with a brief visit to the Chinese capital by United States Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner for hastily arranged talks with Vice Premier Wang Qishan.
A short U.S. Treasury statement, which made no mention of currencies, said the two men exchanged views on U.S.-China economic relations and the global economy.
They also discussed other issues related to a U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue meeting due to be held in Beijing in late May.
A Treasury official in Washington said Geithner and Wang met for 75 minutes in the VIP terminal of Beijing airport, each accompanied by a single aide. Geithner, who had first stopped in Hong Kong after a visit to India, then left for Washington.
Despite the official silence, a late advance in the yuan in Shanghai to 6.8235 per dollar, the strongest rate since October 2009, fanned talk that change was afoot.
Geithner has repeatedly argued that it is in China's, as well as the world's interest, to let the yuan strengthen.
Its rise on the day was tiny but nevertheless significant because the People's Bank of China tightly controls the currency's movements through its interventions in the market.
In offshore markets, three-month dollar/yuan non-deliverable forwards fell to the lowest level since July 2008, implying a 1 percent rise in the Chinese currency over that period. Other Asian currencies rose in sympathy.
'The U.S. dollar got smashed down against the South Korean won, Indonesian rupiah and Taiwan dollar, not to mention the yuan,' said a Singapore-based trader.
Beijing has pegged the yuan near 6.83 to the dollar since mid-2008 to help its exporters weather the global crisis, drawing increasing complaints from Washington that the yuan is seriously undervalued, handing Chinese firms an unfair trading advantage.
Xia Bin, a recently appointed member of the central bank's monetary policy committee, said China should return to its pre-crisis way of managing the yuan as soon as possible.
Between July 2005 and 2008, China operated a managed float that saw the yuan gradually gain 21 percent against the dollar.
Xia that a big rise in the yuan would harm the global economy and U.S. consumers, who would have to pay more for goods imported from China. But he acknowledged that engineering a spike in the currency would have the merit of forestalling speculation about a never-ending climb.
'At a certain point, when necessary, it is better to have a quick, prompt appreciation in a bid to fend off speculative capital,' he told reporters after a speech in Shanghai.