Japan's Aso Fires Another Verbal Salvo at the Strong Yen

Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso fired another verbal salvo at the currency market on Monday, with little immediate impact on the yen.

“Sudden yen strength or weakness has various impacts on trade, economic and fiscal policies and Japan’s stance is that this isn’t desirable,” Aso said in parliament in Tokyo. “It’s natural that Japan has means to intervene.”

Comments in recent weeks by Aso and Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda have not had any appreciable affect on the currency, which is trading around the levels last seen in October 2014, before the BOJ boosted its stimulus program. The strong yen threatens to undermine profits at Japanese exporters and to weaken business confidence.

Aso said a U.S. Treasury Department currency watch list that includes Japan doesn’t affect how the government carries out foreign exchange policy and that Group of 20 nations agree that excessive moves in markets are undesirable.

The yen traded at 107.35 per dollar at 1:06 p.m. in Tokyo. It’s appreciated 12 percent in 2016.

Japan hasn’t intervened in the foreign-exchange market since 2011, instead sticking to verbal jawboning in a climate where monetary policy has played a bigger role in determining the yen’s value.

Kuroda last week expressed concerns about the yen’s gains this year, which he said risked harming Japan’s economic recovery. Aso has couched his concerns in the language of the G-20, whose members have pledged to avoid competitive devaluations, saying abrupt currency movements aren’t deemed desirable by any country.

The U.S. declaration of Japan being among the nations whose foreign-exchange practices bear close monitoring to gauge whether they provide an unfair trade advantage has introduced a new dynamic for the yen. The currency was already strengthening after the BOJ’s April 28 decision to stand pat on monetary policy even after a downgrade in the outlook for Japan’s growth and inflation.

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