LONDON—The yen surged further on speculation that Japan could revise its ultra-loose monetary policy, while the dollar hovered near its lowest level since June against major currencies.
The Bank of Japan is an outlier in clinging to stimulus while most central banks are in rate-hiking mode, but signs of stickier inflation have emboldened some investors to bet that this will change, a move that should boost the yen.
“It’s easy to see why the Bank of Japan would be considering more policy tweaks at this time, though that isn’t our base case,” said Stephen Gallo, head of European FX strategy at BMO capital markets.
The yield on Japan’s benchmark 10-year government bonds breached the central bank’s new ceiling on Friday, adding to pressure for the yield control policy to be scrapped or revised.
The central bank said on Friday it would conduct additional outright bond purchases on Monday, ahead of a planned rate-setting meeting on Jan. 17–18.
The dollar at one point, slipped nearly 1 percent versus the yen on the day to a fresh seven-month low of 128.11, after a 2.4 percent slide on Thursday. It was last down 0.6 percent at 128.515 yen.
The Bank of Japan stunned markets last month by widening its 10-year bond yield target, but failed to quell market distortions caused by its huge bond buying.
“Had the BOJ changed policy last year when bonds globally were very much in a bear market … I think there’s a really high risk that they would have lost control of yields and their currency—not unlike what happened to the UK.
“Now would be an opportunity for the BOJ to catch up a little bit,” Gallo added.
The dollar index—which measures the greenback against six major currencies—was broadly flat at 102.15, after slipping to its lowest since June earlier in the session.
Cooling U.S. inflation has raised hopes of the Federal Reserve slowing the pace of interest rate hikes, after data on Thursday showed consumer prices surprisingly fell for the first time in more than 2–1/2 years in December.
“Hikes of 25 basis points will be appropriate going forward,” Philadelphia Fed president Patrick Harker said in a speech to a local group in Malvern, Pennsylvania on Thursday.
Goldman Sachs strategists said the December inflation data likely seals the deal on a shift to 25 basis point hikes in February but cautioned it was too early in the process for central banks to feel comfortable declaring victory.
“Markets pricing immediate rate cuts by the Fed as soon as June/July, right after its last hike in March/April, seems at odds with the fact that the Fed still wants tight financial conditions to avoid any overheating of the labour market,” said Samy Chaar, chief economist at Lombard Odier.
Elsewhere, the euro slipped 0.1 percent to $1.08460, easing off the fresh nine-month high the currency touched earlier in the session. Sterling was last trading at $1.22340, up 0.2 percent on the day.
By Iain Withers and Alun John