China’s policy moves help reassure investors

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China’s policy moves help reassure investors

Chinese authorities seem to finally be getting through to investors after months of confusion about the nations’ economic policies helped drive a $9 trillion global equity rout.

Recent moves such as ruling out the possibility of a one-off yuan devaluation, a new head of the securities regulator and an increase in the money available for lending appear to be winning back some confidence. Fresh data on Tuesday showing a further slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy barely made a dent in a broad market rally.

Until three weeks ago, such a signal probably would have sparked a selloff.

“We panicked about China for much of this year,” Michael Metcalfe, global head of macro strategy at State Street Global Markets, a unit of the world’s largest money manager for institutions, said on Bloomberg Television on Tuesday.

“The market is beginning, just beginning to regain some faith, perhaps, in policy.”

At the start of the year, concern that China’s economy could collapse and its opaque exchange-rate policy haunted investors. The quick succession of recent policy announcements came after calls from around the world for the government to improve its communication.

People’s Bank of China Gov. Zhou Xiaochuan, the longest-serving central banker among major economies, led the charge.

Breaking months of silence in a Feb. 13 Caixin magazine interview, he said there’s no basis for a continued depreciation of the yuan and dismissed speculation about further capital controls.

At the Group of 20 meeting in Shanghai last week, Zhou and Finance Minister Lou Jiwei pledged to do more to support the economy when necessary, winning kudos from U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew, who said China communicated its policies well.

The PBOC lowered the reserve requirement ratio on Feb. 29 for the first time since October to shore up growth.

The results are positive. Stability is returning to the yuan, which had been the epicenter of market tension in recent months. Traders pared back bets on a decline in the currency in the forward contracts, while a measure of investor expectations for price swings retreated to the lowest since December.

The global contagion from the volatile mainland stock markets is fading even as the Shanghai Composite Index extended its decline to 23 percent this year, the most among major benchmarks. The 30-day correlation between the Chinese stock gauge and the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, known as the fear gauge, shifted to almost zero from minus 0.4 in January. A negative reading suggests that a drop in China’s A shares coincides with an increase in U.S. equity market price swings.

“People often think China is like a big black box, where you don’t necessarily know the motivations behind some of the policies,” Brian Jacobsen, chief portfolio strategist at Wells Fargo Advantage Funds, which oversees $242 billion, said from Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.

“The recent changes, the better communications coming out of the PBOC, I view it as very positive.” Bloomberg

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