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China's banking regulator warns that yuan bears will suffer 'heavy losses'

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The yuan has lost more than 2.5 per cent against the US dollar since the festering China-US trade dispute intensified earlier this month.

Beijing

CHINA'S banking and insurance regulator said on Saturday that it did not expect a persistent decline in the yuan and warned speculative short-sellers that they would suffer "heavy losses" if they bet against the currency.

The yuan has lost more than 2.5 per cent against the dollar since the festering China-US trade dispute intensified earlier this month. It is now less than a tenth of a yuan away from the seven-per-dollar level authorities have in the past indicated as a floor.

"Short-term fluctuation of the yuan exchange rate is normal, but in the long run, China's economic fundamentals determine that the yuan will not depreciate persistently," Xiao Yuanqi, spokesman for the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC), told a finance forum in Beijing. "Those who speculate and short the yuan will for sure suffer heavy loss."

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Mr Xiao was reading from a script prepared for Guo Shuqing, CBIRC's chairman and the Communist Party chief of the People's Bank of China (PBOC). Mr Guo was scheduled to give a speech at the same forum but couldn't make it due to last-minute arrangements.

Sources say China's central bank will use foreign exchange intervention and monetary policy tools to stop the yuan weakening past the key seven-per-dollar level in the near term.

A defence of the seven level could help boost confidence in the currency and soothe investor fears about the yuan, even as souring trade relations with Washington make competitive devaluation a compelling option for Beijing.

Mr Xiao also said that Beijing must look out for hot money moving in and out of the country, as well as large amounts of capital flowing into the frothy real estate market.

"We must be especially vigilant about money from overseas moving in and out in large quantities, and hot speculative money, and we must resolutely fight bubbles in real estate and financial assets," he said.

Chinese policymakers have struggled to manage bubble risks in the property market, the world's largest, without hurting growth in the sector, which is crucial for the wider economy.

With talks stalled between Washington and Beijing, and US President Donald Trump threatening to slap tariffs of up to 25 per cent on all Chinese imports, investors are nervously reassessing risks amid growing fears about their damaging impact on the global economy.

Washington slapped higher tariffs on US$200 billion in Chinese goods earlier in May, prompting Beijing to retaliate.

But Mr Xiao said the impact of additional US tariffs on China's economy, the world's second-largest, would be "very limited" even if the tariffs were levied "to their extreme level".

"First of all, most of the (Chinese) products exported to the United States are very suitable for domestic sales. China is in the middle of a 'consumption upgrade', so a huge market with rapid expansion will absorb a large amount of them without 'crowding out' existing consumers," he said.

Besides China's vast consumer market, he also cited US importers' willingness to share additional costs, and Beijing's Belt and Road initiative that helps promote trade and investment with the rest of Asia, Europe and beyond as factors that would help cushion any negative shocks.

Mr Xiao added that he expected further pressure on China's financial market to be "not too big" as it has become more resilient after suffering an "over-correction" last year. REUTERS