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China to roll out interbank yuan trading; ASEAN to cut nontariff barriers

* China said it will establish direct trading of the yuan with seven foreign currencies on its interbank foreign exchange market, Xinhua News Agency reported, citing the China Foreign Exchange Trade System. The currencies are the Danish krone, Hungarian forint, Mexican peso, Norwegian krone, Polish zloty, Swedish krona and Turkish lira.

* The People's Bank of China and the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey completed their first yuan-lira swap agreement amounting to US$132 million, Xinhua News Agency reported, citing the Turkish central bank. The central banks signed a 10 billion yuan currency swap deal in February 2012, which was extended by three years in 2015. ICBC Turkey, the first Chinese lender in Turkey, became the first bank to take part in the currency swap deal.

* The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is in talks to cut nontariff barriers that hinder the rise of global trade in the region, Bloomberg News reported, citing Mustapa Mohamed, Malaysia's minister for international trade and industry. Discussions on customs procedures and cross-country certifications of products and services are in progress, according to the trade minister.

GREATER CHINA

* The China Banking Regulatory Commission approved Fujian Huatong Bank to set up business in Fujian's free trade zone, the first private bank to be established in the Chinese province, Caixin reported. Chen Dekang, former vice president of Industrial Bank Co. Ltd. will become chairman of Huatong Bank, while Zheng Xinlin, former vice president of WeBank Co. Ltd., will become president of the private bank.

* The China Insurance Regulatory Commission banned Evergrande Life Insurance Co. Ltd. from investing in stocks, Caixin reported. The regulator has classified insurers into two categories: those who are qualified to invest in shares and those who are not qualified. Evergrande Life is only allowed to sell, not purchase, shares, the news agency noted, citing industry sources

* Yao Zhenhua, chairman of Baoneng Group, will increase his holding of shares in Bank of Zhengzhou Co. Ltd., thepaper.cn reported.

* The Monetary Authority of Macao said that as part of efforts to regulate ATM cash withdrawals of Chinese bank cards, cash withdrawals by such cards will be set to a maximum of HK$5,000, effective Dec. 9, while the 10,000 yuan daily limit remains unchanged, Beijing News reported.

JAPAN AND KOREA

* Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. developed a new online accounting service using smartphones and credit cards to help minimize wait times while performing transactions at hospitals, The Yomiuri Shimbun reported.

* According to financial technology sector insiders in South Korea, the country's major peer-to-peer companies will cut minimum funding requirements by a significant degree to lower the barriers for general customers to invest in products offered by the companies, the Maeil Business Newspaper reported. The move was made after South Korea's financial regulators tightened rules for the fintech industry.

* South Korea's largest financial group, KB Financial Group Inc., is extending its merit-based peak salary system from low-level executives to rank-and-file employees whose employment terms have passed 10 years, the Korea Economic Daily reported. The group will accept applications for voluntary early retirement by employees from Dec. 19 to Dec. 22.

* South Korea's Shinhan Bank Co. Ltd. said it established a global trading center in Mumbai, India, to provide India-based South Korean companies with currency exchange and risk management services, the Korea Economic Daily reported.

ASEAN

* The Securities and Exchange Commission of Thailand has reshuffled several executives as part of restructuring efforts to deal with fintech regulation, the country's Daily News reported.

* KASIKORNBANK PCL's lending for the ten months ended October stood at between 6% to 7%, exceeding its target of 3% to 5%, Thailand's Krungthep Turakij reported. The bank's lending growth targets for big clients are between 6% to 7% for 2016 and 4% to 6% for 2017.

* CIGNA Insurance Co. expects its premium collection to grow 14% in 2016, Thailand's Post Today reported. The company's premium collection for the first ten months stood at 1.13 billion baht, up 13.5%. Separately, the Thai Life Assurance Association reported that life insurance premium collection for the first ten months stood at 458.83 billion baht, up 5.7% year over year.

* The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has lifted restrictions on small rural and cooperative banks setting up new branches in key cities in the Philippines' capital region, BusinessWorld reported.

SOUTH ASIA

* India's Ministry of Finance has directed all banks to keep a "tight watch" on cash deposits of new and old banknotes to make sure the transactions are correctly reflected in clients' counterfoils and bank records, The Economic Times reported.

* Bank of Baroda entered into discussions to acquire a majority stake in the Central Bank of India housing finance unit Cent Bank Home Finance Ltd., the Press Trust of India reported, citing unnamed sources. Central Bank of India currently holds a 64% stake in CBHFL.

* State Bank of India sold a 3.9% stake in SBI Life Insurance Co. Ltd. for 17.94 billion rupees, India's Business Standard reported. Upon completion of the deal, SBI will hold a 70.1% stake in SBI Life while its joint venture partner, BNP Paribas Cardif, will continue to hold the remaining 26% stake.

* State Bank of India's card business, SBI Cards, is looking to roll out a credit card with a 25,000-rupee limit, the Press Trust of India reported, citing SBI Cards CEO Vijay Jasuja.

AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

* The trial of cases brought by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission against three of Australia's four major banks — National Australia Bank Ltd., Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. and Westpac Banking Corp. — for rigging the bank bill swap benchmark rate has been pushed back to September 2017, The Australian reported, citing an order by Federal Court Judge Jonathan Beach.

* Fitch Ratings downgraded its outlook on Australian banks to negative from stable, as it expects Australia's residential property sector to become one of the biggest industry risks in 2017, with a potential interest rate hike coming from the Reserve Bank of Australia, The Australian reported.

* ANZ will boost variable rates on investor home loans by eight basis points to 5.60%, becoming the last of Australia's four major banks to do so, the Australian Associated Press reported.

Sally Wang, Sarun Saelee, Cathy Hwang, Emi White and Aditya Suharmoko contributed to this report.

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