Impact on yuan from expected U.S. rate hike will be limited: central bank economist

October 25, 2016 5:01 AM EDT

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 - RTSRP8Z


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BEIJING (Reuters) - A potential U.S. interest rate hike in December will have limited impact on the yuan, the People's Bank of China chief economist Ma Jun told reporters on Tuesday.

Speaking to a small group of foreign reporters at a luncheon, Ma said the yuan was under depreciation pressure ahead of the expected rate hike, but may recover when the Federal Reserve actually raises rates. Ma said he does not expect the Fed to be very aggressive on raising rates.

The impact on the yuan from a December rate hike will be limited because it has been anticipated and priced in by the market, he said.

"Emerging market currencies, including the yuan, have come under some pressure to depreciate before the Fed rate rise. Maybe they will rise after the rate hike," he said.

The yuan's fall of more than 1.5 percent against the dollar since the end of September has renewed speculation in some quarters of a continued slide in the Chinese currency.

The yuan has remained stable versus a currency basket in October despite falling against the dollar, which has been strengthening against major currencies amid expectations that the Fed might raise rates in December, Ma said.

The yuan's drop against the dollar shows the central bank is "very faithful" to its new currency regime, Ma said. Under the regime, the PBOC sets the yuan's daily mid-point versus the dollar based on the previous day's closing price, taking into account changes in major currencies.

Ma declined to comment on a specific level in the yuan exchange rate that the PBOC might tolerate.

Policy sources have said earlier that the central bank would tolerate the yuan's fall to as low as 6.8 per dollar this year.

Ma also commented on China's efforts to rein in a red-hot property market after home prices rose at the fastest on record in September.

Recent city-based property control measures in China will cool prices and demand for mortgages, Ma said, adding that the PBOC will consider the possible impact of monetary policy on the property sector.

"Changes in property prices will affect financial stability and financial stability is one of the central bank's important goals," he said.

Bank lending in recent months has been dominated by household lending, primarily mortgages. China's outstanding mortgage loans to individuals rose 33.4 percent to 17.93 trillion yuan ($2.65 trillion) from a year ago by the end of September, central bank data showed on Friday.

The banking regulator said on Saturday it had asked lenders to step up risk management of property loans amid record gains in house prices that have raised concerns of price bubbles and ballooning debts.

Ma also said that China's economy should grow about 6.7 percent in 2016 and average producer prices will likely show positive growth in 2017.

(Reporting by Kevin Yao; Writing by Elias Glenn; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)



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