The renminbi has fallen out of the top five global payments currencies, having stayed there for just three months.
To much fanfare, the Rmb overtook the Canadian and Australian dollars to sit as the fifth most used currency in global trade in November 2014, with a market share of 2.17% – leaving many to wonder how long it would be before it usurped the Japanese yen, which held 2.69% of global payments.
The latest data, however, shows that in February China’s currency lost ground and fell back to seventh position, after a 20.4% decline in payments, month-on-month.
The news comes on the heels of an HSBC report which shows that in Hong Kong, the first offshore clearing market for the Rmb, 52% of companies that do business with China are settling in Rmb, compared with 60% a year ago. In Singapore, the figure is 15% this year, down from 16% last year, while the major European centres, the UK, France and Germany, have seen the Rmb use fall away by 3%, 10% and 26%, respectively.
While Swift said that the currency has become more internationalised over the course of the year – with markets excluding Hong Kong now accounting for 25% of total clearing, compared with 17% a year ago – the series of reports have served as a reminder that the Rmb is a long way from becoming a major currency in international trade.
Vishal Kapoor, the head of Asian trade sales at Citi, tells GTR that while take-up has been slow, interest is high. He continues: “While invoicing in Rmb has been active in the commodity space, we are also witnessing interest from exporters to shift their exports to Rmb in order to minimise the related forex risk and the costs associated with hedging this. We do believe that this trend is likely to continue, more so with the increase in market volatility.”
Gilberto Serrano, the General Manager of Lafise, a bank in Costa Rica, tells GTR that if there was a market among traders in Latin America, then bankers would be happy to work in Rmb in order to bypass the US dollar hegemony and, perhaps first and foremost, because clearing in more exotic currencies equates to higher fees.
At an event in Busan, South Korea last week, bankers also wondered when the interest was going to crystallise demand. Kim Jin Ha, the general manager of the Korea Development Bank, said that despite Seoul becoming an Rmb clearing hub, there were very few transactions being conducted in the currency.
However, there certainly appears to be appetite for working with the Chinese government to create a market for the Rmb. Yaduvendra Mathur, the chairman of India Exim, said that emerging market economies should work together in order to ensure clearing in local currency, be that Rmb or otherwise, while Gilberto Serrano the general manager of Lafise, a bank in Costa Rica, told GTR that if there was a market among traders in Latin America, then bankers would be happy to work in Rmb in order to bypass the US dollar hegemony and, perhaps first and foremost, because clearing in more exotic currencies equates to higher fees.
Swift’s data shows that Singapore and London, have helped drive Rmb adoption outside of Hong Kong, while the emergence of current or future offshore clearing hubs in Bangkok, Doha, Frankfurt, Kuala Lumpur, Luxembourg, Paris, Seoul, Toronto and Sydney suggest the usage will grow.
“The use of Rmb by more countries, beyond Hong Kong, is a good testimony of the internationalisation of the Chinese currency,” says Michael Moon, head of payments Asia Pacific at Swift. “The global volume of payments in Rmb will fluctuate, and is actually down by value compared to last month, but the broader support by more countries beyond Hong Kong, underlining its international use, suggests the potential for future clearing centres and further development of the currency.”
In February 2015, the Rmb fell back to position #7 as world payments currency with a share of 1.81%. This represents a decrease of 20.4% compared to the previous month, which is likely due to the seasonal effect of the Chinese New Year. Payments across all currencies decreased in value by 9.3% in that same period. The overall negative trend may be due to February being a shorter month.