Japan Sold 692.5 Billion Yen Last Month, Finance Ministry Says

Japan’s Ministry of Finance said 692.5 billion yen ($8.4 billion) was sold last month, showing the government’s efforts to bring the currency down from a postwar high that threatened a recovery from its biggest-ever earthquake.

The sales occurred from Feb. 25 to March 29, the ministry said yesterday in Tokyo. The currency strengthened to a record 76.25 per dollar on March 17, prompting the Group of Seven nations to jointly intervene in foreign-exchange markets the next day for the first time in more than a decade. The yen had risen on prospects Japanese investors would repatriate assets to pay for rebuilding.

“The currency movements after the joint intervention show this was an unusually effective intervention,” said Masafumi Yamamoto, chief currency strategist at Barclays Bank Plc in Tokyo. “It was effective because it halted the yen’s advance with smaller amounts of money than the one in last autumn.

The yen traded at 82.83 per dollar at 4:57 p.m. yesterday in London, from 82.89 in New York a day earlier, and compared with 82.98 on March 10, a day before the magnitude-9 temblor struck. The currency was at 117.49 per euro from 117.10, having weakened from 114.49 on March 10.

G-7 finance chiefs said in a joint statement on March 18 they will “provide any needed cooperation” with Japan. “We will monitor exchange markets closely and will cooperate as appropriate,” the statement also said. The G-7 members hadn’t stepped in the market together since September 2000 when they sought to support the euro as it tumbled in its second year of existence.

September Intervention

Japan unilaterally sold 2.12 trillion yen in foreign-exchange markets from Aug. 28 through Sept. 28 in its first intervention since 2004 to keep the yen from reaching its previous postwar high of 79.75 per dollar reached in April 1995.

The Bank of Japan pumped 40 trillion yen into the banking system in successive one-day emergency cash operations from March 14 to March 22 to try to settle financial markets after the quake. The Japanese government said there’s no evidence insurance companies were repatriating assets from abroad due to the risk of radiation leaks from a quake-crippled nuclear plant.

Totan Research Co. had estimated that the BOJ may have spent about 690 billion yen when it intervened in the currency markets on March 18, based on the central bank’s holdings of government securities. The BOJ’s debt assets temporarily increase when Japan intervenes because the government sells bills to the bank to obtain funds for intervention, said Izuru Kato, chief market economist at Totan Research in Tokyo.

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