Nikkei 225: Follow The Trail

Lior Alkalay - INO.com Contributor


Since the start of 2017, the Nikkei 225 has lagged in performance; with a 2.8% return since 2017 began, it lagged the S&P 500'S 2.8% RETURN, and it lagged its Asian peers, the Hang Sang and the South Korean KOSPI, which gained 16% and 16.7%, respectively, year to date. Despite all that lagging, however, the future trend for the Nikkei 225 might be the most promising. The reason? The BoJ’s monetary policy, and how it is trailing the performance of the Japanese economy.

BoJ Policy vs Reality

In a recent speech at the University of Oxford, Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda stressed that, despite the latest improvement in Japan’s economic performance, inflation (the rise in prices) is still far from the BoJ’s target of 2%. As the official statistic released from Japan’s statistic Bureau suggests, Kuroda is right. Japan’s headline inflation hit 0.4%, still persistently close to 0%. Add to that the risk of another sell-off in oil and the downside risk for Japanese inflation seems very present. Together, that makes it incumbent upon the Bank of Japan to keep its ultra-loose policy. Nonetheless, something about Japan’s official data doesn't add up. Continue reading "Nikkei 225: Follow The Trail"

Japanese Yen Set for a Winter Sell?

Lior Alkalay - INO.com Contributor - Forex


The Japanese Yen is finally ready for another bearish wave, the kind that could drive the Dollar-Yen trade to retest the 2015 highs. At least, that is what the USD/JPY technical analysis suggests. According to the MACD Index, the selling momentum has weakened, and the pair is just resting above the 100 pivot, a key pivot for the pair. But the question is, are fundamentals ripe for another Yen selloff and a USD/JPY rally?

Weekly MarketClub Chart of USD/JPY

Yen is a Bond Play

As I often reiterate, the Japanese Yen is essentially a bond play. Over the past decade, Japan has been stuck in a long deflationary cycle of falling prices and less than 1% average growth in five years. Moreover, Japanese consumers, as well as Japanese corporations, have had an overwhelming desire to hoard mountains of cash which only exacerbates the stagnation of the Japanese economy. The combination of constant cash hoarding and deflation has created a very robust market for Japanese Government Bonds. The Japanese government has tried to balance the phenomenon by accumulating a jaw-dropping debt of 229% of GDP or roughly $9.5 Trillion, and by trying to spur growth. Instead of balance, however, it has made the Japanese Government Bond market so overwhelmingly large (compared to other sectors), that it essentially dominates the dynamics of the Yen. When demand for Japanese Government Bond rises so does demand for the Yen, and vice versa. Continue reading "Japanese Yen Set for a Winter Sell?"

BoJ Ready for Helicopter Money?

Lior Alkalay - INO.com Contributor - Forex


Helicopter money, that’s the big talk in the past week. The term helicopter money refers to a case where the government hands out money to citizens and funds it through printed money. The last time helicopter money was relevant was back in 2009. That’s when Ben Bernanke, then Federal Reserve Chairman, literally opened up the printing press and poured massive amounts of liquidity into the bond market, in tandem with a massive fiscal stimulus plan from the US government. Now, investors are speculating that the BoJ is ready to unleash a similar move, in coordination with the Abe government. And with the BoJ monetary policy meeting scheduled for this Friday, investors have high hopes. Are these hopes in place?

Kuroda Vs. Abe

In the past several months, BoJ watchers have been routinely underwhelmed by the BoJ’s statements. The BoJ slashed deposit rates to -0.5% and increased its QE program to a whopping ¥80 Trillion. But since those two announcements deflation has returned, yields on Japanese Government Bonds plunged to record lows and Japan’s GDP growth marked a modest 0.1% annually. And still, no monetary bazookas have been announced. Continue reading "BoJ Ready for Helicopter Money?"

What's Really Happening With The Japanese Yen?

Lior Alkalay - INO.com Contributor - Forex


The Japanese Yen is making headlines, again. The Dollar-Yen trade pierced through the 110 support level and the Bank of Japan's credibility is at stake. It's only a matter of time before the BoJ swings its "sword" and slice rates again, or at least, so it seems. But while Yen strength has caused quite a stir in Japan, its origins, this time around, are rooted elsewhere.

Wall Street is flat, European bourses are falling and China isn’t out of the woods just yet. Japanese corporates keep hoarding cash and, of course, they need to park it somewhere. That “somewhere” is their default choice; i.e. repatriate the cash and buy into the safety of Japanese Government Bonds.

Chart of the Japanese Yen
Chart courtesy of Bloomberg Press

As illustrated in the chart, when comparing the Bloomberg Japan Sovereign Bond Index with S&P500 and Nikkei 225, demand for Japanese Government Bonds has been strong. Japanese Government Bonds beat both the S&P500 and the Nikkei 225 for the passing year. And that’s even more interesting when you consider the negative yields—it actually costs to hold Japanese Government Bonds.

How long can Japanese corporates keep repatriating funds and pay for the "privilege" to hold Japanese Government Bonds? Continue reading "What's Really Happening With The Japanese Yen?"

Yen Spike: An Opportunity in the Making?

Lior Alkalay - INO.com Contributor - Forex


The BOJ Governor, Haruhiko Kuroda, never disappoints when it comes to producing a juicy headline for the newswires. Last time, if you will recall, it was the surprise addition of new stimulus. This time around, in his speech to the Shūgiin, Japan's House of Representatives last week, Governor Kuroda exclaimed that "the Yen is fairly valued." He then continued to outline how the merits of monetary policy have limits.

And what was investors take on Kuroda's message? Clearly fearful. That was evident by the avalanche of investors who failed to consider the underlying message and quickly switched to crowded Yen buying. The USD/JPY move was brutal, with the pair taking a nose dive of 300 pips. Of course, soon after, analysts and experts provided their own take. Opinions ran from "The remarkable rise of the USD/JPY has finally come to an abrupt end" to "the BOJ will not add more stimulus." In fact, big bets on more and more stimulus are now well off the table. But, before you decide to follow the crowd, take a moment to stop, ponder and try to see this for what it very well may be. Simply put, perhaps the spike in the Yen's value is actually an opportunity to sell it high.

Kuroda Vs Bernanke

Markets are looking at Kuroda's speech as the BOJ saying, essentially, that shorting the Yen from here on out might not be such a good idea. It might also suggest that if the BOJ is pleased with the current value of the Yen, that they might then be less accommodative. Of course, no one knows what exactly goes through the governor's head except Kuroda himself, yet we can speculate. Before I do that, let me first draw a comparison to another central banker, Ben Bernanke, the now retired chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank. Continue reading "Yen Spike: An Opportunity in the Making?"