Ian Krysztofiak, Staff
The Yen has hit a seven-year record low of ¥124 when compared to the dollar on foreign exchange markets. Just 10 months ago, it was valued at ¥109. The Euro gained 1.17 percent to €135.79, a four-year high. The Yen is on track to be the worst performer in 2022 in the foreign exchange markets, next to the Swedish krona — while the U.S. dollar and the Australian dollar are currently the best performers of this year. The Yen has been commonly viewed as a “safe haven” currency when things are going wrong in markets.
On March 28, the dollar hit USD $125.09 against the Yen; it has since dropped two percent to around $122 on April 1. A weak Yen caused by low rates can make cost increases even worse for imports, but it should help Japan’s exporters.
As the Bank of Japan (BOJ) moves to contain rising bond yields, they have announced the purchase of unlimited 10-year Japanese bonds for four straight days to curve bond yields. Inflation remains relatively quiet in Japan, as their estimate for 2022 is two percent, while they are currently at 0.9 percent.
While Japan’s economy is already facing economic problems from surging energy costs and raw materials imports, confidence among Japan’s largest manufacturers declines as the Yen weakens. Japan has been primarily an export-driven economy, but in recent years production has been shifting overseas. Wage growth also remains relatively low and might not be able to keep up with overall inflation if the weak Yen pushes Yen-denominated energy prices up even higher.
Currently, the Yen is the third most heavily-traded currency, being used in trillions of dollars of highly leveraged trades. Hedge funds are fans of the Yen because they use it to invest in high yield bonds, and they use it to arbitrage differences in interest rates. These highly leveraged trades have the potential to fall apart quickly when the Yen makes upward or downward moves, forcing hedge funds to make margin calls and liquidate their safe bets.
While most central banks have been hiking interest rates to fight inflation, or at least discussing it, the BOJ has no plans to do either. Given Japan’s low inflation rates relative to the rest of the world, especially the United States, it makes sense that they wouldn’t need to hike interest rates to compensate. However, due to surging energy costs and raw materials imports, the Bank of Japan will likely have to exercise some type of monetary policy to strengthen the Yen back to its previous state.