A lot of digital ink has been spilled in recent days over the perplexing reversal of the Yen, which for years was seen by the market as a “flight to safety” trade (as unexpected crisis events would prompt capital repatriation into Japan or so the traditional explanation went), only to suffer a major selloff in the past week as it suddenly started trading not as a funding currency for risk-on FX pairs, but as a risk asset itself.
To us, the reversal is far less perplexing than some smart people make it out to be: with Japan now effectively in a recession following the catastrophic Q4 GDP print which crashed 6.3% annualized, validated by today’s just as terrible PMI report…
.. and with Japan now set to suffer a major hit due to the coronavirus epidemic spreading like wildfire across the region, it is only a matter of time before the BOJ follows the ECB and Fed in reversing what has been years of QE tapering, and either cuts rates further into negative territory or expands its QQE (with yield control), and starts buying equities (although with the central bank already owning more than 80% of all ETFs, one wonders just what risk assets are left for the central bank to buy). Needless to say, both of these would have an adverse impact on the yen, and potentially lead to destabilization in the Japanese bond market which for years has defied doom-sayers, but it will only take one crack in the BOJ’s confidence for Japan’s entire house of cards to fall apart. That said, we are not there quite yet.
Furthermore, after the bizarre move in the prior two days, overnight the JPY appears to regain some normalcy, when it traded as it should (i.e., it was once again a risk-off proxy), with the USDJPY sliding during the two major “risk-off” events overnight.