The yen touched 120 per dollar for the first time since July 2007, as policy makers’ decisions to expand monetary stimulus and delay a consumption tax increase highlight the risks the economy is deteriorating.
The yen has plunged 9 percent since the Bank of Japan on Oct. 31 increased the annual target for expanding the monetary base to 80 trillion yen ($667 billion), and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delayed a second bump to the sales levy by 18 months, after the first in April sent the economy into recession. Abe is forecast to score a second landslide victory in a Dec. 14 election.
“It’s still the divergent-growth, divergent-policy story,” Robert Sinche, a global strategist at Amherst Pierpont Securities LLC in Stamford, Connecticut, said by phone. “We are seeing capital flows out of Japan, and I think that helps bring capital out and continues this movement down in the yen.”
Japan’s currency fell to as low as 120.25 against the dollar before closing little changed at 119.78 as of 5 p.m. New York time.
The yen has been trading between 117 and 120 per dollar for almost three weeks, as traders trying to push the yen weaker ran into a wall of options centered around the price.
There were $3.01 billion of over-the-counter foreign-exchange options on the dollar-yen with a strike price of 120 that expired at 10 a.m. New York time, according to Depository Trust Clearing Corp. data tracked by Bloomberg. The strike price is the exchange rate at which call option holders can buy the underlying currency and put owners can sell.
Some options contain so-called barriers, causing the contract to either expire or to be activated if the pre-set exchange-rate level is reached. These types of contracts can also cause traders to attempt to push a currency through or away from barrier triggers. The barriers are often used as they reduce the cost of the strategy because they decrease the odds the options will be profitable.
The unprecedented stimulus by the Bank of Japan contrasts with the Federal Reserve’s discussion about raising interest rates as the world’s biggest economy strengthens, prompting further weakness in the yen. The Japanese currency will slide to 124 per dollar by the end of 2015, according to the median estimate of analysts in a Bloomberg survey.
“The general consensus in the foreign-exchange community is that the currency likely to depreciate the quickest will be the yen,” said Michael Woolfolk, a global-markets strategist at Bank of New York Mellon in New York. “The U.S. economy is relatively more strong and the direction of monetary policy will provide the direction for the U.S. dollar, which is clearly going to be stronger.”
The yen has weakened as Japanese newspapers including the Nikkei and Yomiuri reported Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party will boost its majority in the election, giving him the go-ahead to maintain policies that have weakened the currency.
“The papers say Abe will renew his mandate, and that means a continuation of his reflationary policies,” said Daisuke Karakama, chief market economist at Mizuho Bank Ltd. in Tokyo.
The yen has slumped 3.3 percent in the past month, the worst performer among 10 developed-nation currencies tracked by Bloomberg Correlation-Weighted Indexes. The dollar strengthened 1.5 percent while the euro gained 0.5 percent.
The dollar may run into some profit-taking in the near term given the currency was “overbought,” according to Luc Luyet, a senior market analyst at Swissquote in Gland, Switzerland.
“Prices are now approaching a strong resistance area given the psychological threshold at 120 and 124.14, which is likely to curb some of the yen selling pressures,” Luyet wrote in an e-mailed note. “There is no sign to suggest the end of the long-term bullish trend in the dollar versus the yen.”
The greenback’s 14-day relative-strength index versus the yen was at 79, and every day since Oct. 31 has been above the 70 level that some traders see as a signal an asset may have risen too far, too fast and is due to reverse course.