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China’s yuan ‘moderately’ undervalued, says IMF’s Lipton

By From news services,

BEIJING — The Chinese yuan is “moderately undervalued,” David Lipton, first deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said Friday.

Lipton, who was in Beijing for the fund’s annual policy consultation with China, said the yuan has to appreciate.

Lipton’s view runs counter to China’s official stance on the yuan. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said in early March that the yuan’s value was close to its “equilibrium” level.

The yuan was trading Friday at 6.3705 to the dollar. It has lost about 1 percent since May when it started a depreciation trend.

Lipton also said China’s economic slowdown has been moderate and that Beijing’s response has been appropriate. The central bank on Thursday cut interest rates for the first time since 2008.

“As China continues its reform to support consumer-based demand and rebalances its economy, the renminbi will strengthen as that process continues,” Lipton said. “We hope China will actively move in that direction.”

Lipton, who met Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan on Friday and central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan on Thursday, said China’s shrinking trade surplus and appreciation of the “real trade-weighted value” of the yuan have made the currency less undervalued. He did not say how much the yuan should rise.

Lipton said the central bank’s interest rate cut will lower costs for Chinese businesses and allow market forces to play a bigger role in pricing loans. The IMF welcomes the move, he said.

The People’s Bank of China cut the key lending and deposit rates by 25 basis points Thursday. The rate cut came as Chinese leaders are reversing course after tightening controls for two years to cool an overheated economy.

Beijing also announced that it will for the first time allow banks to pay deposit rates higher than the state-mandated level. That might help to shift money to households and boost consumer spending.

Beijing is unveiling new measures almost daily to shore up growth that slowed to 8.1 percent in the first quarter and is expected to decline further. It plans to pump money into the economy through more spending on construction of airports and other public works and to encourage corporate investment.

Lipton said that “intensifying strains in Europe” could make it harder for China to achieve an 8 percent growth rate this year.

Lipton said China can employ fiscal stimulus to bolster growth if necessary.

Zhou and Lipton “exchanged views” on the global financial situation, the euro debt crisis and IMF reform, according to a statement posted on the Chinese central bank’s Web site.

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