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FX Trading – Kan you say 90.00 USDJPY?
I guess he was right – the market will be the arbiter of prices for the USDJPY exchange rate. It’s a good thing nobody listened to the New Japanese Finance Minister, Naoto Kan, when he called for a weaker yen as an integral part of Japan’s hoped economic revival.

When Kan said 95 USDJPY was probably a good spot, the market said: Is that all?

The pair had climbed a good ways (stronger dollar, weaker yen) in the months prior and was nearing the 95.00 mark rather quickly. Too quickly, I guess … as the market’s sold off USDJPY, and it’s looking like it could break back below 90.00 now.

In case you were wondering, Reuters notes that today’s move lower might be due to news out of Tokyo that some US dollar positions need to be unwound … positions related to a airline fuel hedges.

Ok, right … you could probably care less about that little bit of information. You’re probably looking for an explanation why USDJPY has come off so sharply the entire week after touching a near 5-month high.

Well, I’d love an explanation too.

Here’s one that seems to make sense, in a perverse sort of way. There is typically a tight correlation between the USD-yen and the Nikkei; lately we have seen a bit of divergence, with the Nikkei doing better (as you can see in the weekly chart below).

Nikkei (black) vs. USDJPY (red) Weekly:

Some near-term divergence — no doubt about it – but should we expect a turn from one of these two, will the negative correlation resume? Perhaps the yen is signaling that recent gains in the Nikkei (risk appetite) are overdone.

If we base stock market movement on its underlying fundamentals (even assume stocks lead), maybe Nikkei overdone is the ticket.

Japan machinery orders dropped to a record low in November.

The figure was the worst since record-keeping of this stat began in 1987. The concern here is that capital expenditures are stuck in a serious rut and threaten to keep a lid on growth in Japan’s economy. A stronger yen would only add to this pressure. (But notice how the falling machine tool orders in the chart above tracks with the longer term path of USDJPY since 2006.)

So, what have we got here? It seems one of two things:

  1. The yen is warning of a move away from risk appetite to come; will Japanese investors and international investors be fleeing the Nikkei on a poor fundamental outlook for Japan’s economy in search of the low-risk yen; driving USD-yen rate down more; or
  2. Does this simply represent a buying opportunity for USDJPY as talk of the NEED for the yen to weaken caused this pair’s climb to become overdone?

Don’t forget about the potential return to the yen as carry-trade currency of choice, as discussed here: Currency Currents 21 December 2009