SCIO briefing on China's foreign exchange receipts and payments in Q1

The State Council Information Office (SCIO) held a press conference in Beijing on Friday to brief the media on China's foreign exchange receipts and payments in the first quarter of 2020. April 21, 2020

Bloomberg News:

In March, bank foreign-related receipts and payments for customers recorded their largest deficit since January 2016. What are the main reasons causing this? How about the balance of international payments in the first quarter?

Wang Chunying:

I see you are concerned about the cross-border balance of payments in March. I have a set of data to share with you. In March, the surplus of bank foreign exchange settlements stood at $18.6 billion. The deficit of cross-border payments was $47.7 billion, which was mainly due to the net outflow of RMB. We have conducted comparative analysis and concluded that capital outflow from securities investment is the main cause of this. In March, there were net outflows of cross-border funds under the category of equities and continued net inflows under the category of bonds. However, despite the net outflow of capital in the stock market during March, capital involved in northbound trading and money invested from Hong Kong into the Chinese mainland returned to a state of net inflow, and net outflow of capital through southbound trading has also gradually stabilized. There was no sustained, one-way outflow of capital from the stock market. In fact, fluctuations of cross-border capital in the stock market under external shocks are normal reactions of the market, and changes in relative size are also within a reasonable range.

For the current account structure of the balance of international payments in the first quarter that you are concerned about, the relevant data is yet to be released and some data sources are not yet available. The data just reported are estimates based on large projects. Overall, trade in goods will still present a certain surplus, but the size of the surplus will shrink; the size of the deficit of service trade has also narrowed. The final situation will be determined once the data is compiled. The probability is that the current account balance will continue to run within a reasonable equilibrium range. Even if there is a deficit, it will not be large. There was a deficit of $40.3 billion of current account in the first quarter of 2018 and $900 million in the second quarter. Compared with the scale of international payments, the deficits will not trigger directional changes and large-scale cross-border capital outflows. The ratio of current account surplus to GDP has been basically within 2% in recent years and is now stable at around 1%, which is more balanced. Thank you. 

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