Rising yen, falling stocks highlight Japan’s dilemma
As the old saying goes when it rains it pours, and it’s pouring in Japan right now.
Japanese stocks sank to a three-week low Monday after a similar drop on Thursday and the yen jumped to an 18-month high against the US dollar over worries about what the Bank of Japan will do about the country’s stalling economy.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 tumbled 3.11% to 16147.38 and the Topix index of all first-section issues fell 3.03% to 1,299.96. Over the past five sessions, the Nikkei 225 has plunged more than 1,400 points, or about 8%, putting it very close to a technical correction.
Repercussions from the Japanese market were felt throughout Asia. Australia’s ASX 200 inched down 0.2%. New Zealand’s NZX-50 shed 0.4%. South Korea’s Kospi dropped 0.8%. India’s Sensex declined 0.7%.
The Philippine stock index tumbled 1.5% and Indonesia’s Jakarta market slid 0.7%. The markets in China, Hong Kong, Singapore and many other Asian markets were closed for a holiday on Monday.
Meanwhile, the Japanese currency climbed to an exchange rate of 106.14 yen per dollar, its lowest since October 2014, after the US Treasury Friday released a new currency monitoring list that placed Japan with four other countries posting large trade surpluses with the US. By midday Monday in New York, the yen was trading at 106.58.
Last week, the Bank of Japan decided against easing interest rates and adding stimulus to an economy that has fallen back into deflation for the first time since 2013. The news sent the yen surging. It had been trading above 111.50 before the BOJ announcement.
Haruhiko Kuroda, the BOJ governor, said he wanted to wait longer to see how the effects of the negative interest rates instituted in January sink in. Many now fear, the BOJ has exhausted its tool-kit for managing the economy.
But even if the BOJ was inclined to lower rates again, the US has made it clear it doesn’t want it to happen. Over the weekend, the US Treasury Department, in its semiannual currency report to Congress, pointed to China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Germany for relying on policies it said threaten to damage the US and the global economy, reported The Wall Street Journal.
In response to the report, on Saturday, Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said the April 29 report in no way constrains Japan’s ability to respond, reported Bloomberg.