Central banks’ investment in yuan puts currency nearer reserve status

At least 40 central banks have invested in the yuan and several others are preparing to do so, putting the mainland currency on the path to reserve status even before full convertibility, Standard Chartered said.

Twenty-three countries have publicly declared their holdings in yuan, in either the onshore or offshore markets, yet the real number of participating central banks could be far more than that, said Jukka Pihlman, Standard Chartered’s Singapore-based global head of central banks and sovereign wealth funds.

Pihlman, who formerly worked at the International Monetary Fund advising central banks on asset-management issues, said at least 12 central banks had invested in yuan assets without declaring they had done so.

The US dollar is still the world’s most widely held reserve currency, accounting for nearly 33 per cent of global foreign exchange holdings at the end of last year, according to IMF data. That ratio has been declining since 2000, when 55 per cent of the world’s reserves were denominated in US dollars.

The IMF does not disclose the percentage of reserves held in yuan, but the emerging market countries’ share of reserves in “other currencies” has increased by almost 400 per cent since 2003, while that of developed nations grew 200 per cent, according to IMF data.

Pihlman said “a great number of central banks are in the process of adding [yuan] to their portfolios”.

“The [yuan] has effectively already become a de facto reserve currency because so many central banks have already invested in it,” he said. “The [yuan] may become a de facto reserve currency before it is fully convertible.”

Among the 23 central banks known to have yuan holdings, 11 are from Asian markets with close trade links with mainland China: Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Macau, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Singapore and Thailand.

The rest are five from Europe – Austria, Belarus, Norway, France and Lithuania – and seven from South America or Africa – Bolivia, Chile, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania.

Full article: Central banks’ investment in yuan puts currency nearer reserve status (Sidney Morning Herald)

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