Japan's yen intervention has failed--which means Japan will intervene again to weaken its currency against the dollar

10/12/2010 3:19 pm EST


Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor, JubakPicks.com

Now that worked out just swell, didn’t it?

Remember way back on September 15 when Japan intervened in the currency markets to drive down the soaring yen. The yen had just stormed through the 83 yen to the dollar level that a number of large Japanese exporters had pegged as the exchange rate where they stopped making money.

By buying U.S. dollars and selling yen the intervention succeeded in driving the yen down to an exchange rate of 86 to the dollar.


By October 6, the yen had climbed back to the exchange rate that prevailed before Japan intervened and then some. The yen closed yesterday, October 11, at 82.70 to the U.S. dollar.

It’s likely that the yen will keep climbing too—even if fears that the Bank of Japan will intervene again restrains the rate of that climb. On October 11 the yen, which had strengthened to 81.36 to the dollar, fell back to 82.70 on fears that the Bank of Japan would move.

I understand the fears. Currency traders have been loading up on short positions against the dollar. They know they’re exposed because of the size of those positions and that makes them nervous. And as I’ve written a number of times recently the dollar is so oversold that a short-term bounce is looking increasingly likely. (For more see my post http://jubakpicks.com/2010/10/11/watch-the-dollar-while-the-medium-and-longer-term-trend-is-still-down-the-u-s-currency-is-looking-like-it-wants-to-bounce/ )

But most currency traders believe that they’ve got weeks yet before the Japanese government intervenes again. The argument goes that the Japanese government won’t intervene to weaken the yen until after the G20 meeting in Seoul that ends on November 12. Intervening before a meeting where currency interventions will be a hot topic would be just too provocative and would expose Japan to renewed criticism that its intervention has stoked an already worrying currency war.

Even though smaller Asian countries such as Thailand, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines and even host-nation South Korea look like they have intervened in the currency markets last week.

But with the yen hitting a new15-year high against the dollar, I expect that Japan will intervene after the meeting ends unless G20 officials can cobble together a deal with China to allow the renminbi to appreciate. And with China signaling its reluctance to even discuss a deal, the odds are very low that the G20 meeting will yield anything that would be definite enough to head off another Japanese intervention to weaken the yen.
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