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Sunday August 22, 2004 - 23:50:17 GMT
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Forex: What's Up With Yen?:

What's Up With Yen?

This past week saw the yen strengthen in the wake of very soft 2Q GDP data from the prior week and a record high in oil nearing $50 a barrel. No it's not intervention. Japan has not conducted any currency intervention since March 16 of this year. No the worlds' central banks are not switching out of dollar reserves for yen. Japanese investors are still reporting on average decent net outflows into foreign stocks and mainly bonds.

So what has turned the yen on its heels? Some hefty lifting by non Japanese in the JGB market as some even heftier short positions have been unwound. Through the Aug13 week Japan reported the largest net foreign inflow into the bond market since it began reporting weekly capital flows in 2001. With evidence of Japan's economy weakening it would appear that funds are acquiring JGB's and in the process yen, especially versus the dollar where event risk will surge in coming weeks around the US election starting Aug30 with the Republican Convention in NYC. But equally important to the resilient yen has been some heavy unwinding of more classical carry trades...short low yielding yen and long higher yielding foreign currencies, namely sterling, Aussie, Kiwi, Canada, Euro and to some extent the dollar.

I think it is also significant that with Japan no longer acquiring foreign currency to prevent the yen from rising after an unprecedented period of accumulation of dollars and to a far lesser extent euros between 2003 and March of 2004, the law of supply and demand is coming home to roost. A major supply of yen is no longer in play. Perhaps Japanese exporters are also more eager to covert foreign currency into yen as well now that official cheapening of the currency is largely over (a policy the US Tsy and G7 generally is quite happy with). And there may be more demand for yen from Japanese investors who hold foreign securities that yield income streams...a repatriation demand.

In short, oil and weak 2Q GDP should have taken the starch out of the yen last week and they were all but ignored. Can the yen rally continue? Normally I would go with weaker economy, constrained by oil, and commensurate low yields as a good reason to be short yen. But the notion that a major source of direct supply of yen to the FX market is no longer hitting the currency (still buying domestic securities to expand the money supply) suggests some more upside in the next few weeks. Surely this last week demonstrates that it is more at work than a quirky summer FX market taking the yen up and sellers beware.

David Gilmore
FXA
www.fxa.com



 

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