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Japan frets over relentless yen slide as BOJ keeps ultra-low rates

"The weak yen has both positive and negative impacts (on the economy)," Suzuki told a press conference. (AFP)
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26 Apr 2024 12:04:13 GMT9
26 Apr 2024 12:04:13 GMT9

TOKYO: Japan is concerned about negative effects of the weak yen, finance minister SUZUKI Shunichi said on Friday, in a fresh warning to speculators as the currency fell further after the central bank’s widely expected decision to hold rates steady.

The Bank of Japan kept policy settings unchanged following a two-day meeting that ended a short while ago, triggering another brief bout of selling in the yen to below 156 levels on the dollar, its weakest since 1990.

The latest wobbles in the currency came as Suzuki, who spoke hours ahead of the BOJ decision, repeated his recent warnings against speculative moves in the yen, keeping traders on edge as to when Tokyo may intervene in the markets.

“The weak yen has both positive and negative impacts (on the economy),” Suzuki told a press conference, adding that he is “more concerned about the negative effects right now.”

Suzuki said he could not comment on specific policy measures on foreign exchange, but that authorities were closely watching currency moves and stood ready to take action.

While a weak yen boosts exports, it has become a headache for Japanese policymakers as it inflates the cost of living for households by pushing up import prices. The finance minister said that measures to combat surging prices are key policy priorities for the government.

The yen’s slide to 34-year lows against a broadly firmer dollar has been driven by wide U.S.-Japan interest rate differentials. The yield-induced downturn in the yen has gained renewed momentum on signs the Bank of Japan will go slow on raising its near-zero rates and expectations the U.S. Federal Reserve will likely delay the start of its rate-cutting cycle.


Markets are now looking to any hints from BOJ Governor Kazuo Ueda on how the weak yen could affect the next rate hike timing. Ueda is expected to address a press conference at 0630 GMT.

“The currency takeaway is certainly disappointment from the lack of guidance from the bank,” said Rodrigo Catril, senior Sydney-based forex strategist at National Australia Bank.

“To me, the currency market is telling us it believes that the BOJ policy is too loose and hence why the currency is so weak.”

The yen hovered around 156.12 in afternoon trade after weakening as much as 156.16 per dollar.

The yen’s continued weakness has taken it firmly past 152 and 155 levels to the dollar, which traders had previously seen as a line in the sand that would prompt Tokyo to intervene in the markets. It is down 9.4% on the dollar this year and has lost more than 33% of its value in three years.

Suzuki declined to comment on remarks made by U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen that the U.S. dollar has been strong and interventions by other governments in currency markets is acceptable only in rare and extraordinary circumstances.

At the parliament later in the day, Suzuki said while foreign exchange levels reflect various factors including economic indicators and price trends, interest rate differentials remain the crucial determinant.

Japan last intervened in the currency market in 2022, spending roughly $60 billion to defend the yen.

Traders figure there is not much Tokyo can do to reverse the currency’s slide while interest rates and momentum are heavily skewed against it.

“(Currency) intervention in a scenario where we’re seeing upward pressure on U.S. Treasury yields is going to be a futile exercise,” NAB’s Catril said. 


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