Japanese Finance Minister Jun Azumi ended his first Group of Seven meeting without his counterparts objecting to his pledge to take “bold actions” to stem yen gains, paving the way for a fresh intervention if he deems it necessary.
“We will continue to closely monitor developments and we will take bold actions, especially against speculative trading,” Azumi said after G-7 finance chiefs met in Marseille, France. “No one was opposed to my explanation. I think I gained an understanding of our stance on foreign-exchange rates.”
Concern the currency gain is hurting economic recovery by crimping exports may be mounting after a report showed the world’s third-largest economy contracted more than the government initially estimated in the second quarter. Azumi attended the G-7 talks about a week after becoming Japan’s eighth finance minister since the start of 2008.
“We expect Japan’s authorities will act again unilaterally” if the yen tests its post-war high, said Mansoor Mohi-uddin, UBS AG’s global head of currency strategy in Singapore. “Investors should instead keep favoring the dollar now when they seek safe-haven currencies.”
Azumi asked U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner to understand the challenges caused by the strength of the yen when they met yesterday, a Japanese finance ministry official said on the condition of anonymity, citing government policy.
The G-7 policy makers said in a statement that they will “consult closely in regard to actions in exchange markets and will cooperate as appropriate.” While they said they prefer markets to set currencies, they reiterated their long-held view that volatility and disorderly movements threaten stability.
“As this falls short of any commitment to undertake coordinated action in currency markets, investors are likely to react with disappointment when trading resumes on Monday,” UBS’s Mohi-uddin said.
The yen touched a 10-year high against euro last week as investors sought a haven from Europe’s sovereign debt crisis after German officials said they are considering plans to shore up their banks if Greece defaults.
“The root cause of the strong yen is global investors’ preference for safe assets,” Bank of Japan (8301) Governor Masaaki Shirakawa told reporters during the G-7 meeting. “I told them Japan expects them to firmly address the fiscal issues,” he said, referring to his G-7 counterparts.
The yen has retreated after rising to a post-war high of 75.95 against the dollar, closing last week at 77.61 in New York. The exchange rate is nevertheless ’’considerably high,’’ Economy Policy Minister Motohisa Furukawa said last week. The nation’s largest manufacturers including Toyota Motor Corp. and Sony Corp. based their business plans for this fiscal year at an average of 82.59 per dollar, according to the central bank’s quarterly survey in July.
Gross domestic product shrank at an annualized 2.1 percent rate in the three months ended June 30, more than the 1.3 percent contraction reported last month, the Cabinet Office said yesterday.
Rintaro Tamaki, Japan’s former top currency official who orchestrated interventions last September and March, said the language in the G-7 statement indicates countries want Japan to build a consensus before intervening, indicating the nation may face disagreement over yen sales in the future.
Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said before the G-7 meeting he was concerned about moves by the Japanese and Swiss to stem gains in their currencies after the Swiss central bank said last week it will keep the euro above 1.20 francs and will defend that line with “utmost determination.”
While the lack of objection to Japan’s currency stance doesn’t signal approval for unilateral intervention, the country’s authorities aren’t ruling out selling the yen to curb excessive moves, another finance ministry official said, also on condition of anonymity.
Japan intervened on Aug. 4 and sold 4.51 trillion yen ($58 billion) of its currency last month, the biggest monthly sales since 2004. The G-7 economies jointly intervened in March for the first time in more than a decade after a soaring yen threatened Japan’s recovery from an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.
Former Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who is now the premier, conducted three rounds of interventions in the past 12 months. Azumi has said he will inherit Noda’s stance.
To contact the reporter on this story: Toru Fujioka in Tokyo at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Panckhurst at email@example.com