China is facing an uphill battle to maintain an orderly depreciation of the yuan as investors pile up bearish bets against the currency outside the mainland.
The gap between the yuan’s value against the dollar in the domestic market and in what is known as the offshore market in Hong Kong, has been widening in recent days. On Wednesday, this so-called spread reached 0.0333, its widest since the beginning of October (apart from the day after the U.S. election), although it narrowed a touch on Thursday.
While the Chinese authorities strictly limit the way the yuan trades at home, it can be bought and sold more freely in Hong Kong. But its value against the dollar is usually about the same in both markets.
The widening gap now is complicating the central bank’s strategy of letting some air out of the currency at a pace Beijing dictates. The two yuan markets at home and in Hong Kong often feed off each other. Moreover, a weaker yuan offshore could encourage more Chinese businesses and individuals—the mainstay of the mainland market—to seek to convert their currency into dollars, potentially adding downward pressure on the domestically traded yuan.