SHANGHAI: China's yuan eased off a one-month high against the U.S. dollar on Thursday, as some companies took advantage of a much stronger midpoint to load up on the greenback.
After strong gains in the previous session sparked by upbeat economic data, traders' attention was returning to the progress of U.S.-China trade talks, with the Wall Street Journal saying a deal may be ready to be signed by late May or early June.
Prior to the market opening on Thursday, the People's Bank of China (PBOC) lifted its official yuan midpoint to 6.6911 per dollar, 199 pips, or 0.3 percent firmer than the previous fix of 6.7110. It was the strongest fixing since March 21.
In the spot market, yuan opened at 6.6860 and rose to a high of 6.6854 at one point, the firmest level since March 21. But, as of midday, it was changing hands at 6.6947, 67 pips weaker than the previous late session close and 0.05 percent softer than the midpoint.
The Chinese currency leapt on Wednesday as a raft of stronger-than-expected economic data suggested the slowing economy may be starting to stabilise.
Though analysts cautioned it was too early to call a turnaround, the numbers suggested the economy may be bottoming out a bit sooner than expected, and some market watchers bumped up their full-year economic forecasts.
Robin Xing, economist at Morgan Stanley, raised his growth forecast by 0.2 percentage point to 6.5 percent this year and 6.3 percent in 2020.
"(We) maintain our view of a growth upturn in 2Q-4Q19 as fiscal easing fully kicks in, trade tensions ease, and consumer confidence normalizes," he said in a note on Thursday.
Traders many offshore institutions started building long yuan positions following the strong data on Wednesday.
But in the onshore market, a trader at a Chinese bank said supply and demand was "not in favor of a strong yuan" for now, noting most of the gains in the past two days were tracking the those in the offshore market.
"For now, (onshore) corporate client's expectations do not seem to have changed much," the trader said.
Economists at BNP Paribas China expect the yuan to remain in a tight range.
"While growth stabilization and a possible trade deal support the RMB, weak exports imply a strong currency is infeasible," they said in a note on Thursday.
A CNBC report said Chinese officials were identifying travel dates on U.S. President Donald Trump's calendar that might offer potential for a summit between leaders of the two nations.
"Our forecast for the USD/CNY of 6.75 by the end of the year essentially tracks the development of trade talks. But we need to closely monitor the yuan's moves post-trade talks to determine if we need to revise up our yuan forecast in 2Q and 3Q," ING's Greater China economist Iris Pang said in a note.
The global dollar index rose to 97.052 at midday from the previous close of 97.009. The offshore yuan was trading at 6.6937 per dollar as of midday.
China's foreign exchange regulator said on Thursday the U.S. Federal Reserve's policy stance will be favourable for the nation's capital flows, and expected the cross-border capital flows to remain steady despite some uncertainties.