China’s foreign-currency reserves edged just below $3 trillion in January, falling to the lowest since early 2011 after the yuan capped its steepest annual decline in two decades.
Reserves decreased $12.3 billion to $2.998 trillion, the People’s Bank of China said Tuesday. That compares with the $3.004 trillion estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists and added to the $320 billion decrease in the holdings last year.
Further erosion of the world’s largest stockpile may prompt policy makers to again tighten measures for controlling outflows and on companies transferring money to other countries. Authorities recently rolled out stricter requirements for citizens converting yuan into foreign currencies as the annual $50,000 foreign exchange quota for individuals reset Jan. 1.
“With reserves dropping below the psychologically important threshold of $3 trillion, this will further ramp up pressure on Chinese policy makers to prevent the further draining of reserves," said Rajiv Biswas, Asia-Pacific chief economist at IHS Global Insight in Singapore. "The Chinese government and the PBOC are now facing a tremendous battle to stem further significant capital outflows while also trying to maintain confidence in the yuan."
Capital outflows accelerated in recent months as the yuan suffered its worst year of losses against the U.S. dollar since 1994, declining 6.5 percent. An estimated $739 billion left the country in the first 11 months of 2016, according to a Bloomberg Intelligence gauge. The onshore yuan recovered in January, rising 1 percent amid a broad dollar decline.
Holdings of the International Monetary Fund reserve currency known as Special Drawing Rights decreased to 2.21 trillion from 2.24 trillion in December. (Bloomberg)