RMB Usage Tanks in 2016, Falling to Sixth Most Utilized Currency by Payments

RMB usage dove nearly -30.0% YoY in 2016, with a slowing Chinese economy driving this trend.

SWIFT, a global provider of financial messaging services, has released its latest data compilation from its renminbi (RMB) tracker, capturing an overall yearly snapshot in the currency’s usage. During 2016, the RMB suffered a sizable decline in overall payments by value, relative to 2015, SWIFT data shows.

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While experiencing a notable uptick in recent years, 2016 was an abrupt reversal, coinciding with a -29.5% decrease YoY in the value for payments for the RMB relative to 2015. In addition, the RMB’s share as an international payments currency dropped from 2.31% in December 2015 to 1.68% in December 2016.

Overall, the currency ended the year as the sixth most active unit for international payments, refusing to overtake the Canadian dollar (CAD). The latest data snaps what had been a consecutive yearly ascension since 2011 when the SWIFT tracker was first launched.

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There are several reasons for the decline in the RMB’s usage, with a winding down of volatility and capital outflows in China being the biggest culprit. Interestingly, the value for all payments across the entire currency basket managed to rise 0.67% YoY in 2016 from the year prior. No other currency suffered a larger decline in 2016 by usage.

As of December 2016, the worldwide payments pecking order by value is as follows: USD 42.09%, EUR 31.30%, GBP 7.20%, JPY 3.40%, CAD 1.93%, and the CNY 1.68%.

According to Michael Moon, Head of Payments Markets, Asia-Pacific (APAC), SWIFT, in a statement on the tracking data: “The decrease in RMB usage for payments in December may be attributed to a convergence of several events: the slowdown of the Chinese economy, the volatility of the RMB exchange rate and regulatory measures on capital outflows.”

“Despite the slowdown, RMB internationalisation will continue to benefit from major financial infrastructure milestones, such as CIPS for cross-border clearing and additional RMB offshore clearing centres,” he added.

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