Trade war may escalate to currency war, hurting Japan

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Analysts had expected a 2% decline after June's 1.3% fall.

Stocks held at ports have now hit their highest level in five months, according to China government data also released Thursday, with just over 7 million mt held in warehouses on the eastern seaboard - the highest level since the end of the Chinese New Year.

China's global trade surplus widened by 60 percent over a year ago to $45.1 billion.

Tensions escalated after Washington branded Beijing a currency manipulator and threatened to impose 10% tariffs on $300 billion in Chinese imports, starting on September 1.

In the first seven months of 2019, China's rare earth exports, which can widely fluctuate, came in at 28,476 tonnes, down 7.3% year-on-year.

President Trump's latest threat to slap elevated tariffs on Chinese goods could weigh heavily on consumers in the form of higher prices soon. The Chinese government said in June that any purchases must be at a reasonable level, suggested Beijing was becoming more cautious about making big commitments before it sees what Washington offers in exchange. Its trade surplus widened by 47.4 percent year-on-year to 1.55 trillion yuan during the same period.

As China's exports, a key engine of economic expansion, have been slowing down due largely to tariffs imposed by the United States, Beijing might have made a decision to take steps to devalue the country's currency, pundits say.

China's central bank rattled global financial markets this week by allowing its yuan to weaken to an 11-year low against the USA dollar.

Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump accused Beijing of currency manipulation after the yuan plummeted in value, heightening tensions and possibly souring prospects for a trade resolution.

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Some traders have become anxious that the US administration of President Donald Trump could intervene in the foreign exchange market to stem the appreciation of the dollar against the yuan in a bid to counter China's alleged currency manipulation.

Economists say even if a settlement with the United States is reached, China's exports this year will be lackluster due to weak global demand, putting pressure on manufacturers that support millions of jobs.

Even as the trade war ramps up, Kudlow told CNBC that the U.S.

While the US Department of the Treasury's determination is largely symbolic, as the potential punishments are a shadow of the steps Trump has already taken against China, it underscores the rapidly deteriorating relationship between the world's two largest economies.

Later in the day, however, Trump lambasted Beijing for guiding the yuan - also known as the renminbi - to "an nearly a historic low", saying in his Twitter post, "It's called currency manipulation".

Imports of crude oil and natural gas increased by 9.5 percent and 10.8 percent respectively in amount, while imports of soybeans dropped 11.2 percent in the first seven months.

Analysts say the recent weakening of the Chinese yuan to below 7 to the dollar could boost metal exports going forward. It said the yuan's decline was driven by market forces.

Trade weakness has added to pressure on Xi's government to shore up economic growth and avoid politically risky job losses. Australia led the way as Beijing purchased 18.7% more from the Land Down Under.