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Anticipated Yen Rally: Market Expectations for a Stronger Japanese Currency in 2024

Published December 25, 2023
7 months ago

The yen, which has been on a downward trajectory for the past three years, may be poised for a comeback in 2024 according to market participants and analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. This optimistic forecast hinges on the Bank of Japan (BOJ) potentially winding down its unprecedented negative interest rate policy, coupled with an anticipated reduction in borrowing costs by other central banks globally.


After a series of incorrect projections for the yen's revival starting as early as February 2023, traders and analysts have identified several factors that underpin this newfound confidence in the Japanese currency’s prospects. One significant difference from last year’s conjecture is the alignment of market sentiment with the economic rationale that predicts a shift in the BOJ's policy in the coming months.


The BOJ’s leadership has been part of conversations weighing the implications of moving away from the negative rate regime—a move that Mizuho Securities Co. strategist Shoki Omori perceives as a win for those bullish on the yen. Despite limited scope for tightening, Omori notes the BOJ’s resolve to overhaul their negative interest rates.


Meanwhile, on the global stage, expectations have crystallized regarding monetary policies. Last year’s discussions on a peak in US interest rates have shifted, with recent projections from Federal Reserve policymakers indicating rate cuts in 2024. In light of these developments, Bloomberg's compiled forecasts suggest a year-end target of 135 yen to the dollar—a staunch reversal from the overly bullish anticipation of 131 at the close of 2023.


This outlook is bolstered by a declining trend in 10-year US Treasury yields, a critical factor that's driven the dollar-yen exchange rate, and by signals that the Fed might have concluded its interest rate hikes. Societe Generale's chief foreign-exchange strategist Kit Juckes anticipates significant gains for the yen under these conditions.


Volatility, however, is expected to persist in the yen's performance. The currency's near 4% rally in December, triggered by speculation over the BOJ’s policy direction, underscores the market's sensitivity to even short-lived shifts in expectations. Key policy meetings in Tokyo through to April keep investors on alert for potential catalysts that could provoke further fluctuations in the yen’s value.


Another factor contributing to anticipation of a yen increase is inflation, which has remained above the 2% target in Japan for a sustained period. The BOJ seems poised for wage growth evidence, anticipated early next year, before making any policy alterations.


Beyond the immediate policy shifts, analysts like Steven Barrow from Standard Bank look to structural improvements in Japan’s economy as reasons for a stronger yen. Factors such as the resolution to the deflationary period and a thriving stock market, exemplified by the Topix’s impressive 23% surge, paint a positive economic backdrop.


Meanwhile, sentiments among hedge funds and asset managers have improved slightly towards the yen, as gleaned from bearish bet reductions, as reported by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.


While Japan’s trade deficit may continue to fuel yen selling instincts, Mizuho Bank Ltd.’s chief market economist Daisuke Karakama joins the chorus anticipating a rally, estimating the currency strength to reach about 132 by year-end 2024.


As the yen awaits its potential turning point, the views of Nomura Securities Co.'s head of Japan FX strategy Yujiro Goto, senior portfolio manager Takeshi Yokouchi of Sumitomo Mitsui DS Asset Management Co., and others in the financial community reflect a shared belief in the yen’s rise against the dollar, contingent on broader global economic trends, and central bank rate movements.



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