ETF Securities Research Blog

Limit to Yen rally after BOJ disappoints

The Japanese Yen rallied over 3% against the US Dollar after the Bank of Japan’s (BOJ) latest policy decision to ‘stay the course’ with its current stimulus stance and nearly 10% ytd. Such a policy decision is refreshing.

It seems that foreign Japanese investors’ and firms are losing faith with the economic management of the country and reacting by hedging foreign exposures against adverse Yen movements With ongoing concerns over inflation and with the Fed beginning  its tightening cycle.

Decades of low inflation and weak growth have rendered policymakers ineffective in the eyes of investors and burgeoning local savings have moved offshore in search of better returns. Offshore markets provided returns but the Yen’s safe haven characteristic, a stronger local currency can offset better offshore returns. IMF research asserts that the stronger Yen is likely due to a ‘portfolio rebalancing through derivative positions’, which is to say domestic foreign positions being hedged against adverse Yen movements.

Unconventional policy

Unconventional policy does need to be deployed in Japan and perhaps the key reason is hidden in its December monetary policy statement. The BOJ speaks of the ‘conversion of firms’ and households’ deflationary mindset has been progressing’, which is key to raising inflationary expectations and in turn achieving the inflation target. So the BOJ feels its policy is working and that its move to negative interest rates can assist the ‘progress’.

While the market appears to be losing faith in the BOJ, the central bank appears to be committed to its unconventional policy and wants to see it work its way through the economy given time. Indeed, it was only in January that negative rates were implemented and monetary policy has a lagged impact. Japanese companies clearly hedge their foreign operations, whether that be trade or investment related. It is for this reason that central bank policy needs to be independent of market expectations and shouldn’t be concerned about the day-to-day gyrations of the local currency. The BOJ was right to ignore the market’s expectations for policy. Such a policy decision is refreshing in the light of the US Fed being swayed by market angst and potentially trapping itself in a dangerous policy spiral , which is based on the markets’ view and not fundamentals.

Nonetheless, we expect more stimulus in 2016 to come from the BOJ, and with the Fed tightening, we feel this knee-jerk rally to the latest policy move is limited.

central bank

%d bloggers like this: