What Does The Yuan Devaluation Mean For Property?

We know how dependent Australia’s economy, and in fact the world economy, is on the health of the Chinese economy.

The Chinese Yuan devalued recently, uncoupling itself from the U.S. dollar .

So what does this mean for global real estate markets?

Richard Barkham, Ph.D., Global Chief Economist, CBRE recently answers this in a research note with the following Q&A:

1) What happened to the yuan?

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Between 10 August and 15 August this year, the Chinese yuan devalued by 3.1% against the U.S. dollar, the largest five-day movement between the two currencies in the last 10 years (Figure 1).

Prior to this, beginning on 1 June 2010, the yuan had appreciated by 10% against the dollar.

The real effective exchange rateI actually appreciated by 25% over this circa five-year period.

The appreciation of the yuan was seen by China as a way to reduce its trade surplus and reliance on exporting low value-added manufactured products, as well as to boost the spending power of domestic consumers.

2) Why did the yuan fall?

China bears have been quick to point to the slowdown in China’s export growth—in particular, the 8.3% fall in exports in July (in dollar terms).

Although it is not our view, many believe that this devaluation was prompted by economic weakness not revealed in official economic data.

We also live in an era of competitive devaluation.

Other nations that compete directly with China have also allowed their currencies to fall.

For instance, the yen and the euro have both fallen by around 10% against the dollar over the last year.

Other, more technical factors may also be at work.

The devaluation was brought about by the People’s Bank of China’s (PBOC) decision to tie the reference rate of the yuan to the previous day’s closing spot price.

This change was chiefly designed to move the yuan towards hard currency status, as per International Monetary Fund requirements—a major objective of the PBOC—but also made Chinese exports a bit cheaper.

Our view is that a fall on the order of 3% in the value of the yuan will have a relatively small impact on export growth and that the technical reasons for the devaluation predominate.

3) What are the economic implications?

real-estate-world-economy-global-markets-companies-tech-travel-healthThis devaluation move is mildly deflationary for the economies of the OECD and strengthens the argument that U.S. interest rates will not be raised until 2016.

However, we continue to believe that the U.S. Federal Reserve will gradually begin raising interest rates later this year.

Chinese stock markets will probably remain jittery, particularly if there is further devaluation.

However, on the plus side, even a relatively small fall in the yuan’s value will allow export growth to pick up a little, which will feed, via supply chains, into better growth elsewhere in Asia.

China has approximately US$4.7 trillion of savings.

As restrictions on capital movements are gradually eased, these savings will be deployed into the accumulation of overseas financial assets, including real estate, irrespective of the yuan’s value relative to other major currencies.

4) What are the global real estate implications?

Most of the econometric evidence suggests that currency plays a very small role in transnational real estate investment.

We do not believe that this devaluation will materially impact the flow of capital from China into OECD real estate markets.

If this small move towards a more market-driven currency contributes to a further loosening of capital controls, then the move will be unequivocally positive for real estate values in Western countries.

5) What about cross-border real estate capital flows in and out of China?

Chinese cross-border capital outflows into commercial real estate have grown rapidly, reaching US$11.7 billion last year.

Halfway through 2015, its global real estate investment totalled US$6.6 billion, up 19.7% on the same period last year.

The size of the savings pool in China and the imperative for Chinese institutions to build up more diversified portfolios is too great for a devaluation of the yuan to impact the flow of capital from China into world real estate markets, even if it reaches up to 8%, as some expect.

On inbound investment, it is possible that overseas funds might look for an early exit as a result of this latest yuan depreciation.

Moreover, new inbound capital flows may slacken whilst fears of further devaluation persist.

However, these factors are unlikely to have a significant impact on Chinese property values.

We estimate that foreign investors (excluding Hong Kong and Singapore developers, which tend to hold China-located assets for long-term investment purposes) account for less than 1% of the total commercial property market in major Chinese cities.

Source: CBRE Global Research

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Michael is a director of Metropole Property Strategists who create wealth for their clients through independent, unbiased property advice and advocacy. He's been voted Australia's leading property investment adviser and his opinions are regularly featured in the media. Visit Metropole.com.au

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