Forex Blog: Currency Trading News & Analysis.

June 5th 2009

Japanese Yen Sinks with US Dollar, but at Slower Pace

Speaking of seven-month lows, did anyone notice that while the US Dollar was busy declining against pretty much every other tradable currency that the Japanese Yen was doing the same? The Yen has remained rangebound against the Dollar for the last three months – the period during which the market rally and Dollar decline have taken place – which just by simple mathematics explains why it has also fallen to a seven-month low around the same time.

yen-chart

The same set of factors that caused the Yen and Dollar to move in lockstep prior to the credit crisis seems to have coalesced again in March. Specifically, investor comfort with risk-taking have combined with low rates to make both very attractive candidates for carry trade funding currencies. Both countries’ Central Banks are holding rates close to 0% (for several years now, in the case of Japan) and appear unlikely to hike them anytime soon. Simply put, ” ‘Risk appetite is improving in the market, which has been attracting cash away from safe-haven currencies like the dollar’ and the yen. Investors are ‘searching for higher yields.’ ”

At the same time, both countries have been aggressive in using fiscal and monetary policy to tackle the economic downturn, both of which could be highly inflationary and lead to currency debasement. Then, again, nearly every economy has responded with the same policy measures, which suggests that low interest rates represent the most plausible factor. It could, however, explain why the Yen is rising against the Dollar, and is closing in on the 13-year high recorded earlier this year. In other words, while both currencies are being sold in the short-term to fund carry trades, investors may have determined that the Dollar will remain weaker in the long-term, due to inflation problems.

On a certain level, this is somewhat baffling. Japanese economic indicators make the US economic recession look like an economic boom by comparison. “Preliminary figures showed the world’s second-largest economy shrank at a record 15.2 percent annual pace last quarter,” which would be the worst on record. Meanwhile, Japanese corporations saw so-called recurring profits fall by “69.0 percent from a year earlier to 4.27 trillion yen (44.35 billion dollars) in the three months to March…the sharpest drop since comparable figures became available in 1955 and the seventh straight quarter of declines…Combined sales reported by corporate Japan both at home and abroad caved by a record 20.4 percent.”

In addition, the US has recorded a net capital account surplus with Japan of late, which implies that Japanese are net investors in the US- not the other way around. The government of Japan is equally confused, and is “in the middle of analyzing what is driving the yen higher.” Still, it insists that forex intervention is not currently on the table. If Japan’s economy contracts by another 15% next quarter, however, I wouldn’t be surprised if it did an about-face.

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Posted by Adam Kritzer | in Japanese Yen, News | No Comments »

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