Goldman Says Tariffs Are Key Metric for Yuan in U.S.-China Rift

For investors wondering what it will take to shake the yuan out of its recent slumber, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has an answer: focus on tariffs.

Events related to tariffs in the China-U.S. trade dispute have a bigger influence on the currency than other issues, such as as restrictions on the technology industry or those linked to Hong Kong or Taiwan, Goldman economists led by Hui Shan wrote in a note dated May 8.

The yuan weakened an average of about 1% in the week after five events related to tariffs in 2018 and 2019, according to Goldman. News about other points of contention in the China-U.S. relationship led to “no consistent moves,” the bank said.

Swings in China’s currency have been muted recently, with a measure of historical volatility dropping to the lowest level in more than three months. The yuan rose just 0.3% in April, which was the smallest monthly move since November. It slipped 0.1% to 7.0805 a dollar as of 12:28 p.m. Monday in Shanghai.

China-U.S. tensions have worsened recently, with a dispute between the nations over the origins of the coronavirus threatening to derail an initial trade agreement. U.S. President Donald Trump cast doubt on the future of that deal on Friday, saying he’s “having a very hard time with China.”

Stephen Innes, chief Asia market strategist at AxiTrader Ltd., said he had been turning “bullish on the yuan until the trade war rhetoric ratcheted up,” adding that he is “more neutral now.”

He predicted the yuan will trade around 7.05-7.15 into the fourth quarter.

— With assistance by Chris Anstey

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