As China’s yuan takes the first steps toward becoming a global reserve currency, Japan offers a lesson on how hard it is to rival the dollar’s supremacy.
The Japanese yen’s share of global reserves reached a record 8.5 percent in 1991 as the nation’s post-War industrial boom made its economy the world’s second-largest. But its economic decline soon resulted in its clout shrinking as the euro gained ground and the greenback re-asserted its dominance. While the yen is still ranked third for trading and fourth for payments, it now accounts for just 4 percent of world reserves, compared with the dollar’s 64 percent and the yuan’s 1 percent.
The yen’s failure to dent the U.S. currency’s primacy illustrates the precarious mix of policy, political will and prosperity needed for the yuan to come even close to dislodging the dollar. Like China, Japan struggled with the degree of openness needed to promote global use of its currency. By the time its markets became more accessible to foreigners, the bursting of its asset bubbles and consequent “lost decade” — coinciding with China’s dizzying rise — relegated the yen to its also-ran status as a reserve currency.
“The main lesson is that it is impossible to have a major reserve currency like the dollar or euro unless you are willing to sustain a high degree of financial market openness over a very long period of time,” said Arthur Kroeber, the Beijing-based founding partner and managing director at Gavekal Dragonomics, a research firm.
Like the yuan, the yen’s march toward liberalization was gradual and marked with ambivalence. Under the Bretton Woods system after World War II, the Japanese currency was fixed at 360 a dollar, before a trading band was introduced in 1959 to make it slightly more flexible. For three decades, all capital flows except those explicitly permitted were banned, making it easier for the government to achieve policy goals.
It wasn’t until 1998 that approval or notification requirements for financial transactions and outward direct investments were abolished. The push to internationalize the yen initially came from the U.S., which wanted greater global use to fuel appreciation and reduce Japan’s trade surplus with America.
China’s situation now isn’t dissimilar. Having thrived on an economic model of closed borders and accumulation of reserves for decades, its capital account is still closed, individuals’ foreign-exchange conversions are capped and inter-country money flows occur mainly through specific programs. Policy makers have tightened controls on outflows in the past year after the yuan’s August 2015 devaluation exacerbated depreciation pressures. The currency was little changed Friday at 6.6699 per dollar.
Lowering the hurdles to create a true freely traded currency might risk a flight of capital during times of weakness, a concept China doesn’t always seem comfortable with.
“Everyone wants this thing called ‘exorbitant privilege,’ but if you try to give it to them, they get furious and they tell you to stop,” said Michael Pettis, a finance professor at Peking University. “Countries like China that are running huge surpluses because of insufficient domestic demand — basically they are creating the role of the dollar as the dominant reserve currency.”
The term “exorbitant privilege,” coined by former French finance minister Valery Giscard D’Estaing in 1965, referred to the benefits the U.S. received for the dollar’s status.
Daniel McDowell, a Syracuse University political science assistant professor who studies international finance, made the point that the appeal of a nation’s sovereign debt market plays a key role in a currency’s internationalization. The yen never became a major reserve currency because its government bonds weren’t as attractive or as plentiful as the U.S., he said.
Overseas investors held 10 percent of Japan’s sovereign debt and treasury bills at end-June, central bank data show, compared with 41 percent for the U.S. at end-July, according to Bloomberg calculations. While the figure is around 1 percent for Chinese bonds, the nation has since February allowed all types of medium- to long-term investors to access the interbank market. Overseas funds increased their holdings of Chinese onshore bonds in June by 47.7 billion yuan to 764 billion yuan, according to latest available data from the People’s Bank of China.
China’s economic might could give it an advantage. It accounts for 18 percent of the world’s output on a purchasing power parity basis, more than Japan ever did, according to International Monetary Fund estimates going back to 1980. Despite making up just 1.1 percent of global reserves in a 2014 IMF survey, the yuan’s weight in the SDR basket from Saturday will be 10.9 percent, trumping the yen and sterling.
KKR & Co. and hedge fund manager Jim Chanos are among those who have compared China’s current economic slowdown with Japan’s woes after its real-estate and stock bubbles burst in the early 1990s. Asia’s largest economy is now coping with the slowest growth in more than two decades, while its housing market is looking overheated a year after a $5 trillion rout in its equity market.
“When the Japanese economy was booming, property and financial bubbles formed,” said Ha Jiming, Hong Kong-based chief investment strategist at Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s private wealth unit in China. “Therefore, the yen didn’t become a very important international currency. That being said, China’s economy is bigger in size compared to Japan, so the renminbi may still have the potential to become a major currency. Eventually it will depend on how China can avoid a Japan-like boom-and-bust cycle.”
Bureau De Change Operators Begs CBN to Approve Electronic Forex Trading
BDCs Seek CBN Approval Electronic Forex Trading
Bureau de change operators (BDCs) on Wednesday begged the Central Bank of Nigeria to approve the usage of electronic foreign exchange trading to ease demand pressure and facilitate comfort.
Alhaji Aminu Gwadabe, the President of Bureaux De Change Operators of Nigeria (ABCON), made the appeal during a webinar organised by its member with the theme ‘The Impact and Roles of BDCs Challenges and Way Forward.’
Gwadabe urged bureau de change operators to adhere to the rules guiding forex transactions by selling at an appropriate rate stipulated by the CBN.
Gwadabe said: “Technology is a threat whether we like it or not and we have been urging the CBN to allow us operate within the payment space. Our request to the CBN and the federal government is to continue to empower us more especially in the payment space.
“The world is now in the fourth generation and it is no more in the traditional method of doing business even agriculture is digital, so we are appealing to the CBN to allow us be on the digital payment space. As this will deepen the economy, further converge the rate, further deepen liquidity and empower the BDC.”
Continuing, Gwadabe said: “Some of us want to be ungodly and trading on parallel market rate is highly unacceptable. The CBN has said it is highly unacceptable, ABCON has said it is highly unacceptable and so we are calling on all the directors of BDCs to please ensure that you don’t sell to willing customers. Any willing customer that says he wants to buy at N465 is not your customer and they would land you sanctions and get penalties.”
He added that monies found on operators carrying out illegal trades would be seized by the relevant authorities.
He said: “Any dollar you found trading on the street is going to confiscated and would become federal government’s property. Any dollar you try to courier via border movement at the airport is also government property.”
Naira to Dollar Exchange Rate in 2020
Naira to dollar exchange rate in 2020 declined by N73 from N306 Central Bank of Nigeria sold it in the beginning of the year to N379 and N386 on the investors and exporters forex window.
The Naira to dollar exchange rate in 2020 has been marred by a series of economic uncertainties and weak macro fundamentals caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the beginning of the year, the official Central Bank of Nigeria’s naira to dollar exchange rate stood at N306 to a US dollar, while on the parallel market popularly known as the black market, the local currency was exchanged between N350 to N360 per US dollar.
On the investors and exporters’ foreign exchange window instituted by the central bank to mirror a free market, the naira was exchanged at N325 to a United State dollar.
However, unclear economic direction amid a 50 percent increase in Value Added Tax from 5 percent to 7.5 percent and border closure hurt the Nigerian economic outlook and plunged investors’ confidence in the economy even before COVID-19 outbreak.
This weak sentiment metamorphosed into broader economic decline when COVID-19 broke out in the country on February 27 2020 as investors that were doubting President Buhari economic path see no reason to wait any longer or believe Nigeria has what it takes, in terms of the health system, to contain an impending health catastrophe.
The surged in demand for US dollar by those looking to move their funds out of the country compelled Governor Godwin Emefiele led central bank to adjust the Nigerian Naira foreign exchange rate from N306 to a US dollar to N360 in order to discourage capital flight while simultaneously sustain dwindling foreign reserves.
But with global oil prices plunging to as low as $15 per barrel, below Nigeria’s $17 per barrel cost of production and demand for the commodity, especially Nigeria’s crude oil at almost zero during the peak of COVID-19, foreign investors were willing to lose N54 per US dollar to exit the Nigerian market.
According to a JPMorgan report, central bank forex backlog was over $5 billion, yet foreign reserves continues to drop. Left with little to no choice, the federal government approached the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for $3.4 billion financial assistance while the apex bank devalued the Naira again to the currency $379 to a US dollar and N386 on the investors and exporters window.
Despite the negative impacts of COVID-19 on the Nigerian people and the broad-based decline in economic activities that saw the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contracting by 6.10 percent in the second quarter of the year and the unemployment rising as high as 27.1 percent or 21.8 million people in an import-dependent economy, the apex bank did not just devalue the Naira twice, the Federal Government raised electricity tariffs and remove subsidy in an economy with very weak consumer spending.
With the series of economic uncertainties, investors in forex forward market in London started offering Naira future contracts for N545, saying the apex bank no longer have the resource to support the Naira given the current global situation.
True to their words, Naira to Dollar exchange rate in 2020 plunged to N480 on the black market amid persistent forex scarcity before recently moderating to N467 when the central bank resumed forex sales to the bureau de change operators across the country.
Also, with the economy expected to plunge into an economic recession for the second time in four years in the third quarter of 2020, the Naira to Dollar exchange rate is expected to suffer even further in 2020.
Naira Drops N2 on Black Market Even With 11.5% Interest Rate
Naira Declines on Black Market Despite Lower Interest Rate
Nigerian Naira traded at N467 to a US dollar on the back market on Wednesday despite the Central Bank of Nigeria’s led monetary policy committee lowering the interest rate by 100 basis points after months of saying NO.
The local currency declined by N2 from N465 it exchanged on Tuesday to N467 on Wednesday as investors doubt the new interest rate would be effective given the size of the nation’s economic woes.
Also, the central bank rate adjustment was seen by most as recession validation. Experts and even the apex bank had predicted that except the nation recorded strong growth in the third quarter, Nigeria would slide into recession for the second time in four years.
This was after Nigerian currency was devalued twice to accommodate the nation’s weak foreign reserves in the wake of low oil prices and the drop in demand for the commodity.
Since then, the central bank has injected a total sum of N3.5 trillion into the economy to mitigate the negative impact of COVID-19 on the nation and support gradual improvement in productivity.
However, the decision of the Federal Government to raise electricity tariffs and remove petrol subsidy at a time when 27.1 percent of the working population or 21.8 million people are out of jobs with COVID-19 eroding consumer buying power, further weighed on sentiment and send the wrong message to potential investors and businesses.
Against, the British pounds the Nigerian Naira traded at N600 while it was exchanged at N545 to a European Union common currency.
With labour declaring a nationwide industrial action starting from Monday September 28, Nigeria’s detoriating economic outlook may further plunge the Naira value against global counterparts.
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