The End of Yen Appreciation May Be Close

At the end of January, the Japanese yen reached a series of multi-year highs. Yet, during the last month the Japanese currency retreated by almost 11%. What is behind this unprecedented move? Is this the end of the yen appreciation?
Anna Fedec, 3/8/2009 9:35:50 AM

Not a long time ago we were predicting that the currency would decline with the global economy recovery. But, sooner than we have expected, market conditions have changed. Although, the Japanese banking sector seems to have weathered the financial turmoil better than many other countries, the Japanese economy is deteriorating day by day. For example, the economy shrank by 12.7% annualized in Q4, industrial production fell by 31% yoy in January and retail sales and consumption were also weaker than expected. In addition, the demand for yen is declining as the exports slowdown eliminates over-hedged positions by exporters and the unwinding of yen carry trade positions seems to be over. In addition, there is also evidence that the Japanese are increasingly selling domestic equities and buying overseas bonds.

How Much Longer Can U.S. Dollar Appreciate?

The U.S. Dollar has been appreciating rapidly after a sudden acceleration of the global financial crisis. What is behind this move and how much longer the currency can sustain its current level?

At the beginning of the last year we were arguing that the U.S. dollar could lose its position as the most popular reserve currency in favor of the Euro. But in the second quarter of 2008 the dollar suddenly started to rebound and began one of its biggest rallies in years, going from 1.6 to 1.2 dollars per euro in only three months.

Indeed, back in 2006 and 2007, several countries were considered to be in much better economic condition than the United States. For example, in that period the Euro Area economic growth surpassed that of U.S. and as a result, international investors were more willing to hedge dollar exposure with investments into the Euro Zone. Moreover, even though some economic slowdown was becoming visible in the United States, the majority of economists believed that the slump would be short and there would be no chance of spilling over to other countries. However, few months later the situation changed drastically, and the underestimated slowdown in the U.S. economy was soon transformed into a major global recession. More importantly, as everyone was being hit by recession fears, the U.S. dollar was once again seen as a safe haven currency, supported international demand for U.S. government securities.

Even so, at Trading Economics we think that current safe heaven position of the U.S. dollar could be temporary.  For some time, the U.S. economy has been running a current account deficit and the bill for biggest fiscal stimulus plan in the U.S history could bring the U.S. financial debt to the world very close to unsustainable levels. In fact, with the Japanese and Chinese economies also fighting with the global economic slowdown, one should not be is the yields on U.S. treasuries rises to unprecedented levels, making the fiscal stimulus more pricey than previously estimated.