Thoughts on G-7 Statement on ‘Concerted Intervention’ to Sell Japanese Yen

By Warren Mosler

In the context of this ‘everyone’s out of paradigm’ world, it makes sense for Japan’s MOF (Ministry of Finance) to buy dollars vs yen.

But it makes no sense to do this as a coordinated effort with other nations also buying dollars vs yen.

It does make sense for the MOF to ask the G7 for permission to buy dollars, as the ‘out of paradigm’ world considers that kind of thing ‘currency manipulation,’ and brands those nations that do buy fx as currency manipulators and outlaws. And they consider this kind of ‘competitive devaluation’ as a ‘beggar thy neighbor’ policy that robs others of aggregate demand. The last thing they all want to happen is a trade war, where each nation buys the other’s currency trying to weaken his own.

So it’s interesting that the rest of world has agreed to allow Japan to conduct this kind of ‘emergency measure.’ It probably means it will be short term and limited.

However the strong yen itself may have only been an initial, temporary phenomena as Japan’s domestic households and businesses move to hoard yen liquidity in anticipation of looming yen expenses. That includes reduced borrowing for the likes of cars and homes as well as widely discussed converting of dollar and other fx deposits to yen deposits. This all works to make the yen ‘harder to get’ and keep it firmly bid.

What follows the initial flight to yen liquidity, however, is the spending of the yen, which makes yen ‘easier to get’. And with that comes more spending on imports, which means those yen spent on net imports are likely to get sold for dollars and other fx by the exporters selling to Japan, to meet their own ongoing liquidity needs.

Additionally, Japan”s budget deficit will rise, which makes yen easier to get by adding yen income and net financial assets to the economy, all of which contributes to a weaker yen. The deficit can rise either proactively, as may be happening with the (relatively modest, but a good start)10 trillion yen govt. rebuilding initiative just now announced, or reactively via increased transfer payments and falling tax revenues due to the fall off in economic activity.

And if they try to contain their deficit spending by implementing the consumption tax hike recently discussed, that will only make things worse, and further increase the reactive deficit spending.

Also, weaker exports and a smaller trade surplus due to supply issues likewise weaken the yen.

As for the BOJ, nothing they do with regards to ‘liquidity injections’ will matter, apart from keeping rates about where they are.

And not to forget that what’s happening in the Middle East, where that pot is still boiling as well.

In my humble opinion this remains a good time to be on the sidelines.

G-7 Statement on Currencies, ‘Concerted Intervention’

March 18 (Bloomberg) — The following is a joint statement released today by officials from the Group of Seven industrial nations. The G-7 includes the U.S., Japan, Germany, France, the U.K., Italy and Canada.

“We, the G-7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, discussed the recent dramatic events in Japan and were briefed by our Japanese colleagues on the current situation and the economic and financial response put in place by the authorities.

“We express our solidarity with the Japanese people in these difficult times, our readiness to provide any needed cooperation and our confidence in the resilience of the Japanese economy and financial sector.

“In response to recent movements in the exchange rate of the yen associated with the tragic events in Japan, and at the request of the Japanese authorities, the authorities of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the European Central Bank will join with Japan, on March 18, 2011, in concerted intervention in exchange markets. As we have long stated, excess volatility and disorderly movements in exchange rates have adverse implications for economic and financial stability. We will monitor exchange markets closely and will cooperate as appropriate.”

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