Intervention threat curbs dollar’s ascent towards new high on the yen

By Thomson Reuters Mar 24, 2024 | 8:02 PM

By Rae Wee

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The dollar was on the front foot on Monday and kept the yen pinned near a multi-decade low, though the threat of currency intervention from Japanese authorities prevented the greenback from heading further north.

The yen last stood at 151.25 per dollar, having bottomed at a four-month trough of 151.86 last week that left it within striking distance of a 32-year low near 152 per dollar hit in 2022.

Japan’s top currency diplomat said on Monday the yen’s current weakness did not reflect fundamentals, adding to the rhetoric of government officials who have stepped up warnings in recent days over the currency’s decline.

The moves have come in the wake of the Bank of Japan’s (BOJ) landmark interest rate hike at its March policy meeting, as the decision had been well telegraphed. Crucially, traders also reckoned rates in Japan will continue to remain low for some time yet and therefore maintain the stark rate differentials with the United States.

“Japanese officials’ verbal intervention is making 152 a very strong near-term resistance for dollar/yen,” said Carol Kong, a currency strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

“Markets are fully aware of a potential actual FX intervention from authorities, so I think that’s keeping dollar/yen from moving substantially higher.

“I think there is still a high risk that they will come in to prop up the yen if dollar/yen were to surge materially perhaps to 155. That’s still seen as a line in the sand.”

A shift in the global rate outlook following a flurry of central bank meetings has breathed new life into the dollar, on expectations that the Federal Reserve is likely to keep rates higher for longer while its peers elsewhere begin easing rates.

Bets for a June rate cut by the European Central Bank and the Bank of England have substantially risen after the Swiss National Bank became the first major central bank to do so last week.

That’s kept pressure on their respective currencies, with the euro last down 0.03% to $1.08045, languishing near a three-week low.

Sterling eased 0.02% to $1.25985, having slid more than 1% last week following dovish signals from the BoE. The Financial Times also reported on Friday that Governor Andrew Bailey said rate cuts “were in play” this year.

“The BoE and ECB have galvanised expectations they will also go in June, with the BoE meeting in May even showing signs it could be a live meeting,” said Chris Weston, head of research at Pepperstone.

In comparison, while market expectations are also for a Fed easing cycle to begin in June, a run of resilient U.S. economic data has raised doubts the central bank is indeed on course for three rate cuts this year.

The dollar index was last 0.03% higher at 104.46, having clocked a weekly gain of nearly 1% last week.

Elsewhere, the Australian dollar edged 0.05% lower to $0.65115, while the New Zealand dollar fell 0.13% to $0.5987.

The two have also been partly pressured by a slide in the yuan, given both are often used as liquid proxies for the Chinese currency.

The weakening of the yuan past a key threshold on Friday had prompted state-owned banks to step in to defend the currency, though with little success as the onshore yuan still finished the domestic session at its weakest level in four months.

The yuan has been pressured by growing market expectations of further monetary easing to prop up the world’s second-largest economy.

In the offshore market, the yuan was last marginally lower at 7.2761 per dollar.

(Reporting by Rae Wee; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)