PASSING through the Suez Canal became easier earlier this year, thanks to an expansion completed in August. Now it is about to become a little bit more complicated. Transit fees for the canal are denominated in Special Drawing Rights, a basket of currencies used by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as its unit of account. Today the IMF decided to include the yuan in the basket from next year, joining the dollar, the euro, the pound and the yen.

If lots of things were priced in SDRs, the IMF’s decision would have forced companies around the world to buy yuan-denominated assets as soon as possible, to hedge their exposure. That would have prompted China’s currency to strengthen dramatically. But few goods or services are priced in SDRs. Instead, admission to the currency club is significant mainly for its symbolism: the IMF is lending its imprimatur to the yuan as a reserve currency—a safe, liquid asset…Continue reading