China Reports First Official FX Reserve Data to IMF

  • IMF still won't disclose reserve data on individual nations
  • Beijing boosts transparency to gain reserve-currency status

China is reporting data on its official reserves to the International Monetary Fund for the first time in an effort to provide more transparency as it pushes to have the yuan recognized as a reserve currency.

China is one of 96 countries that have agreed to identify themselves as contributors to the IMF’s quarterly data on the currency composition of official foreign-exchange reserves, known as Cofer. The fund still won’t disclose the official reserves of individual countries.

Total foreign-exchange reserves were $11.5 trillion in the second quarter, up from $11.4 trillion in the previous quarter, the IMF reported Wednesday. The U.S. dollar accounted for 63.8 percent of total allocated reserves, compared to 64.1 percent.

The Cofer database breaks down global holdings by seven currencies: the U.S. dollar, euro, the pound, Japanese yen, Swiss franc, Australian dollar and Canadian dollar.

"It’s a step forward for them in terms of transparency, and it brings them more in line with international best practices,” Robert Heath, deputy director of the Washington-based fund’s statistics department, said in a phone interview.

The move comes as China lobbies to have the yuan included in the IMF’s basket of reserve currencies, known as Special Drawing Rights. The fund is assessing whether the Chinese currency meets the requirements of being "widely used” and "widely traded,” with the IMF’s executive board expected to vote on the matter in November.

‘Transparency’ Push

Chinese President Xi Jinping recognized the importance of "meeting the transparency standards of other major reserve currencies,” according to a joint statement released by the White House last week after Xi met President Barack Obama in Washington.

Only part of China’s official reserves will be included in the Cofer data released Wednesday. The Chinese government has informed the IMF that the composition of the partial data being released is broadly representative of its overall holdings, according to the fund. The country has agreed to move to full coverage within two to three years, Heath said.

The composition of official reserves are closely guarded by many countries, with only some nations, such as the U.S., disclosing their holdings. In total, 146 countries disclose their data to the IMF for the Cofer report.

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