FREEPIK

CHINA’S main bond trading platform for foreign investors has quietly stopped providing data on their transactions, a move that may heighten concerns about transparency in the nation’s $20- trillion debt market after record outflows.

Daily trades by overseas investors were last provided for May 11 by the China Foreign Exchange Trade System (CFETS), according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing private information. The data showed sizable net foreign outflows that day, with some selling also seen for most days in April, the people said.

It’s unclear why CFETS stopped publishing the figures, which are typically updated one day later, the people said. There was also no indication of whether the move was temporary or related to the lockdown of Shanghai, the nation’s onshore financial capital. A spokesperson for CFETS — which is affiliated with China’s central bank and compiles data on the so-called interbank market — didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The missing data add to the uncertainty over capital flows into and out of China, as Covid lockdowns and questions over concrete policy support spur market volatility. Global funds sold record amounts of Chinese sovereign debt in February and March as their yield premium over Treasuries collapsed and money managers fretted about a supply surge.

APRIL DELAY
Transactions by domestic investors on CFETS are still getting published, the people said. The debt traded on its platform include sovereign, provincial, policy banks and credit.

Other than the interbank market, the biggest in the nation, bonds are traded on exchanges.

Aside from the CFETS figures, investors had been also awaiting the delayed release of an April report on bond trading by clearing house Chinabond. The information, which is typically published by around the 10th of every month, is a summary of custodial bonds and includes the balance of domestic debt held by overseas institutions.

Data from Chinabond released late on Tuesday showed foreign investors offloaded 42 billion yuan ($6.2 billion) of Chinese government bonds in April. While the outflows narrowed from March, it marked a third straight month of selling by overseas funds. That was the longest string of monthly sell-off since 2015.

YUAN PLUNGES
While outflows probably slowed overall in April, the sudden decline of the yuan during the month likely stoked selling again, according to Becky Liu, head of China macro strategy at Standard Chartered Bank Plc. The Chinese currency had sank 4% against the dollar last month.

Analysts at Barclays Bank Plc and Natixis SA have said that overseas investors may continue to trim Chinese bond holdings as the nation’s Covid lockdowns weigh on growth and a stronger dollar saps demand for emerging-market debt.

Some money managers, including Neeraj Seth at BlackRock Inc., are still bullish on selected Chinese bonds. Officials shifting to a more supportive stance on monetary policy will be an important milestone that will stabilize the yuan, he said.

“The size of China’s bond market and structure gives you a reasonable case for the debt to have space in the portfolio and that’s a trend we don’t expect to change,” said Seth, the Singapore-based head of Asia credit. Hot money flows into the country have been “interrupted by geopolitics and volatility in the exchange rate, but the longer-term money is still there,” he added.

Based on banks’ settlement and payments data released by the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, there was $23 billion of cross-border outflows under the securities account in April, the smallest amount in a three-month period. — Bloomberg