January 4, 2019 / 6:42 AM / 17 days ago

Yuan climbs cautiously on hopes for U.S.-China trade deal

HONG KONG (Reuters) - The Chinese yuan firmed on Friday on hopes that trade talks next week would help end the bitter U.S.-Sino trade war before further damage is inflicted on both economies.

FILE PHOTO: Chinese 100 yuan banknotes are seen in a counting machine while a clerk counts them at a branch of a commercial bank in Beijing, China, in this March 30, 2016 file picture. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

Gains were limited, however, as global currency markets were still wobbly after a sharp jump in volatility on Thursday as investors fled riskier assets. The “flash crash” mainly impacted the yen, but also weighed on the yuan.

Global markets have grown so gloomy after a spate of weak economic data and stock market losses that even China’s mere confirmation of trade talks next week helped to lift spirits.

The two sides will hold vice-ministerial level meetings in Beijing Jan. 7-8, the commerce ministry said on Friday.

Major advances for the yuan were off the cards, however, as the U.S. dollar steadied after the previous session’s sharp losses against the safe-haven yen.

Traders were also cautious before Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell speaks and the U.S. publishes December non-farm payroll figures later in the day.

The People's Bank of China set the yuan midpoint rate CNY=PBOC at 6.8586 per dollar, firmer than the previous fix of 6.8631.

Spot yuan CNY=CFXS opened at 6.8700 and kept within a 70-basis point range in morning trade. It was changing hands at 6.8616 at midday, 114 pips stronger than the previous late session close and 0.04 percent softer than the midpoint.

Analysts say fresh signs of a global slowdown and renewed market turmoil may give impetus to both sides to reach a trade agreement, but time is running out before a March 1 deadline to complete negotiations on a host of thorny issues.

Unlike last year, when the U.S. appeared to have the upper hand, the “trade war is now starting to make U.S. companies, like Apple, suffer. It might be easier (for the U.S. and China) to reach a compromise,” said Ken Cheung, senior Asian FX strategist at Mizuho Bank in Hong Kong.

Apple Inc made a rare cut to its sales forecast this week, blaming weak China sales.

The offshore yuan CNH=D3 was trading 0.11 percent weaker the onshore spot at 6.8690 per dollar.

The Thomson Reuters/HKEX Global CNH index .RXYH, which tracks the offshore yuan against a basket of currencies on a daily basis, stood at 93.38, slightly weaker than the previous day’s 93.39.

(This story has been corrected to note that onshore yuan was weaker than midpoint at midday, not stronger)

Reporting by Noah Sin; Editing by Kim Coghill

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