July 20, 5:00 pm EST
We’ve been watching the Chinese currency very closely, as the Chinese central bank has been steadily marking down the value of its currency by the day, in efforts to offset U.S. trade tariffs.
Remember, in China, they control the value of their currency. And they’ve now devalued by 8% against the dollar since March. They moved it last night by the biggest amount in two years. That reduces the burden of the 25% tariff on $34 billion of Chinese goods that went into effect earlier this month.
But Trump is now officially on currency watch. Yesterday in a CNBC interview he said the Chinese currency is “dropping like a rock.” And he took the opportunity to talk down the dollar.
The Treasury Secretary is typically from whom you hear commentary about the dollar. And historically, the Treasury’s position has been “a strong dollar” is in the countries best interest. But Trump clearly doesn’t play by the Washington rule book. So he promoted his view on the dollar (at least his view for the moment)–and it may indeed swing market sentiment.
The dollar was broadly lower today. We’ll see if that continues. If so, it may neutralize the moves of China in the near term. Nonetheless, the U.S./China spat is reaching a fever pitch. Someone will have to blink soon. Trump has already threatened to tax all Chinese imports. The biggest risk from China would be a big surprise one-off devaluation. As we discussed yesterday, that would stir up a response from other big trading partners (i.e. Europe and Japan). And they may coordinate, in that scenario, a threat to block trade from China all together.
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