Yuan Jumps After Report on Saudis Weighing Its Use in Oil Deals

Yuan Surges After Report on Saudis Accepting Currency for Oil

The Chinese yuan reversed earlier declines following a report by Dow Jones that Saudi Arabia is in active talks with Beijing to price some of its oil sales to China in the currency.

The talks with China over yuan-priced oil contracts have been off and on for six years but have accelerated this year as the Saudis have grown increasingly unhappy with decades-old U.S. security commitments to defend the kingdom, Dow Jones reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The offshore yuan erased a loss of as much as 0.3%, and traded slightly stronger at 6.39 per dollar. 

Yuan Jumps After Report on Saudis Weighing Its Use in Oil Deals

The outbreak of the Ukraine war and the swath of sanctions imposed on Russia as a result has brought to the fore questions about alternatives to U.S. currency-based markets, and the yuan is one in particular focus in light of China’s relationship with Russia. Saudi Arabia’s relationship with the U.S., meanwhile, has been buffeted by various issues ranging from Yemen’s civil war to potential negotiations around Iran’s nuclear program.

“Many sovereigns, including U.S.-aligned countries, have realized owning massive amounts of dollars lead to an illusion of stability,” said Victor Xing, principal at Kekselias Inc. “In any moment, a political decision could lead to that dollar reserve being frozen or seized. The Saudis could be anticipating this shift, and pricing crude in yuan would increase their trade surplus in yuan and reduce dollar holdings in an organic way.”

The bump for the yuan comes at a time when Chinese assets more broadly have been under some strain. The renminbi has come under tremendous selling pressure over the past couple days amid a rout in the country’s stocks. The offshore yuan fell more than 1.1% against the dollar in the three days through March 14, its worst such drop in a year. The offshore yuan’s 200-day moving average at 6.4116 per dollar remains key near-term support for the currency.

Yuan Jumps After Report on Saudis Weighing Its Use in Oil Deals

There was no indication from the Dow Jones report on the likelihood of Saudi Arabia making such a switch nor how much of its sales might be denominated in yuan if it were to change. It does, however, signal that the conversation around alternatives to the greenback is very much a live debate.

“Perhaps it’s more of a sentiment boost to the potential for wider use of the renminbi,” said Sacha Tihanyi, head of emerging-market strategy at TD Securities in Toronto. “I see ‘some’ of its oil, so I’m not sure how relevant it is.” 

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