China made waves recently with the announcement that it would give up its currency's fixed exchange rate to the dollar. Analysts worldwide suspect that this will mean a stronger Chinese yuan, which is good news for some, and bad news for others. What opportunities did this change create for investors? The Fool's Global Gains research team has the scoop.
Nate Weisshaar: This is a non-event. Everyone is caught up in the statement that China's central bank will "enhance the RMB exchange rate flexibility." However, the central bank isn't looking directly at a yuan-to-dollar relationship, but a basket of currencies, and the euro has been weakening relative to both the dollar and yuan.
Add to this the fact that China's trade surplus has shrunk significantly recently, down to 6% of GDP from 11% in 2007, and there appears to be little impetus for a major rise in the yuan relative to the dollar. The central bank said as much in their release: "With the BOP (balance of payments) account moving closer to equilibrium, the basis for large-scale appreciation of the RMB exchange rate does not exist."
As a result, folks hoping that this development will boost American exports are in for a disappointment. The people who come out ahead in this are European exporters (which generally means Germans), but a stronger yuan also helps emerging-market exporters (other than China) gain competitiveness.
One winner is ABB
Tim Hanson: A non-event? You're mental. While I agree that this move does not portend a sharp rise in the value of yuan relative to the dollar, I do take it as further evidence that the Chinese government -- and with it, the country's economy -- continues to mature and liberalize.
Furthermore, I hope the move foreshadows a willingness on the part of the Chinese government to permit foreign investment entities in China to covert yuan into dollars, and therefore potentially pay dividends to foreign shareholders. Not only would this benefit shareholders of Chinese companies, but dividends might also help close the credibility gap that exists between Chinese companies and their foreign investors.
As for winners and losers, the clear winners are Chinese consumers, who should benefit from stronger purchasing power. This, in turn, will benefit companies who cater to Chinese consumers, such as YUM Brands!
As for losers, you got one thing right. I'll agree that exporters of commoditized goods, who have competed on an artificial low-cost advantage up to the present, are in for some hurt.
Nathan Parmelee: How about a compromise? This is an important change in direction, but it's not the event many members of the media have made it out to be. First off, this was an announcement about a plan to do something in the future, and not the revaluation so many proclaimed it to be. We still don't know exactly what China will do, or when they'll do it.
Allowing the RMB to rise helps fight inflation, and makes the commodities that China buys (and other imports) more affordable. All of these things benefit the consumer. But allowing a more flexible RMB could also make exports more expensive. Some Chinese consumers working in factories making widgets for the west could find themselves looking for work, if margins are already slim. China will look to balance this dynamic.
On the winners and losers front, the stocks that moved the most immediately after the announcement aren't necessarily the biggest beneficiaries. Assuming a more freely floating RMB, I want to be long McDonald's
Who are you calling the winners and losers? Leave a comment below and remember to sign up get all of the team's thoughts from their upcoming trip to China by entering your email address in the box below.
Tim Hanson and Nate Weisshaar own shares of ABB. Nate Parmalee owns shares of Coca-Cola. ABB and Winner Medical are Global Gains recommendations. Motley Fool Options has recommended a bull call spread on Yum! Brands. The Motley Fool owns shares of Coca-Cola, which is an Inside Value and Income Investor recommendation. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.