On Tuesday, Japanese Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced that Japan will tap its euro reserves to buy bonds that the EFSF (European Financial Stability Facility) will issue later this month. He said that the government is looking to get dibs on more than 20% of the bonds that will be on sale to help finance Ireland’s bailout. That’s around 1 billion EUR shawty!
The good news came after the Chinese pinky swore that they will buy Spanish, Greek, and Portuguese government bonds, making Japan the second Asian superpower to support the euro zone.
At the wake of the announcement, EUR/USD spiked up to its Asian session highs at 1.2990. But as soon as word got out that Japan was using its existing reserves for the aid and not adding more to it, the pair quickly fell back to pre-announcement levels.
So what convinced Japan to go knight-in-shining-armor on the debt-distressed Europe?
While the pledge of support may seem noble at first, the true reason behind Japan’s backing is to protect its own interest.
Noda and his buds are hoping that the buying bonds will somehow ease worries over euro zone’s finances and slow down the yen’s rise. Remember, whenever any nation in the euro zone wishes to import goods from Japan, it must first convert its euros to the yen. This means that, as the euro depreciates, the more expensive it is for euro zone importers to purchase Japanese goods. Generally speaking, higher prices translate to weaker demand.
Note also that the Japanese central bank has large euro reserves in its coffers, which means that any drop in the euro’s value could have a severe impact on its balance sheet. If euro zone’s debt problems continue to spread, then it would put Japan’s own wealth and investments at risk.
Everyone has a W.I.I.F.M. (What’s in it for me?) part of the brain, and the Japanese aren’t exempted!
It looks like other economies are finally starting to realize that the euro zone debt drama has serious repercussions for the global economy, and that they need to do their part in rescuing the region. Maybe it’s about time the stronger economies give the euro zone a break, right?
Well, this is beginning to look like an international rescue mission and it’s all starting in Asia. Recall that China already attempted to extend a helping hand to the euro zone late last year by pledging to maintain their euro zone government bond purchases.
Aside from that, the Asian economic superpower also provided verbal support for the troubled region, as though their procurement missions were not enough.
Now that Japan has also declared that it’s got the euro zone‘s back, I wonder who’s gonna be the next nation to do so. It seems that the euro zone would need a lot more than Japan’s and China’s backing, especially since Portugal and Italy would most likely give in to bailouts. It doesn’t help that the two largest economies in the euro zone, namely Germany and France, aren’t too confident that the debt-ridden nations could survive on their own.
While news of Japan’s support helped the euro stay afloat, I doubt that this improved confidence would last. For one thing, Japan emphasized that it would use existing euro assets to purchase the bonds, which means that they won’t be buying fresh euros.
Unless other nations step up their game and agree to help out, the euro’s gains could be nothing more than a temporary pullback.