The yen weakened from near its postwar record against the dollar and the Swiss franc fell amid speculation policy makers in both countries will seek to curb gains in their currencies that are hurting exporters.
The yen dropped the most in two weeks after Japan’s Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda said he’s ready to take decisive steps after the currency strengthened to 75.95 against the greenback on Aug. 19. Most Swiss support intervention by the Swiss National Bank to curb gains in the franc, SonntagsZeitung reported yesterday, citing a survey. The euro gained for a second day against the dollar as European stocks rallied.
“One of the big drivers for these two currencies has been the heightened speculation of imminent intervention by the Japanese and Swiss authorities,” said Lee Hardman, a currency strategist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd. in London. The yen “probably has the most potential for upside out of the two currencies. The biggest risk to that would be another bout of coordinated, multilateral intervention to weaken the yen.”
The yen fell as much as 0.9 percent to 77.21 per dollar before trading 0.3 percent weaker at 76.81 as of 7:02 a.m. in New York. That was the biggest decline since Aug. 4, the day Japan sold its currency. The yen depreciated 0.5 percent to 110.78 per euro.
The Swiss franc lost 0.3 percent to 1.1340 per euro, and was 0.2 percent weaker at 78.69 centimes per dollar. The euro gained 0.2 percent to $1.4422.
Noda told reporters in Tokyo today he’s become “more concerned about the worsening of the yen’s one-sided movements.” The government will take “bold actions if necessary and won’t rule out any possible options,” he said.
Bank of Japan Deputy Governor Hirohide Yamaguchi said in Beijing yesterday he was “worrying” about the yen’s gains, noting also that a stronger currency won’t “necessarily” damage the economy. The comments were clarified by a BOJ official in Tokyo, who said that while the deputy doesn’t see currency gains having a big effect on the economy immediately, he is concerned about what the effect may eventually be.
The franc weakened against all but one of its 16 major counterparts amid speculation the Swiss central bank will introduce new measures to damp demand for the nation’s currency. The central bank, which earlier this month cut borrowing costs to zero and increased bank sight deposits almost sevenfold, left the door open for further measures to curb gains in the franc.
‘Market is Wary’
“Those are two currencies where authorities are actually intervening and looking to stop appreciation,” said Khoon Goh, Wellington-based head of market economics and strategy at ANZ National Bank Ltd. “The market is wary of any measures the SNB may take.”
Of 1,004 people questioned Aug. 18-20, 63 percent favored central bank action to curb gains in the franc even if it stokes inflation, SonntagsZeitung reported, citing a poll by market research company Isopublic AG. The newspaper also said Switzerland’s Cabinet expects the SNB to set an exchange-rate target of at least 1.2 francs per euro, without saying where it got the information.
SNB spokesman Walter Meier declined to comment on whether the central bank had intervened in the currency market, when contacted by Bloomberg News today. Finance Ministry spokesman Roland Meier also declined to comment on speculation the franc would be pegged at a targeted 1.20 to the euro.
The franc has advanced 10 percent over the past three months, the biggest gainer among 10 major-economy currencies tracked by Bloomberg Correlation-Weighted Indexes. The yen has risen 4.5 percent and the dollar is down 2.4 percent.
The franc and yen tend to strengthen during periods of financial turmoil because their export-reliant economies don’t need foreign capital to balance current accounts -- the broadest measure of trade.
The euro strengthened against the dollar, yen and franc as European stocks rebounded from a two-year low with the benchmark Stoxx Europe 600 Index climbing 1.4 percent.
Markit Economics announces tomorrow its composite index based on a survey of euro-area purchasing managers in the services and manufacturing industries. The index fell to 50 in August from 51.1 in July, according to economists polled by Bloomberg News. A reading above 50 indicates growth.
The Dollar Index extended losses from last week amid speculation Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke will signal at an Aug. 26 conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, that the Fed will increase monetary stimulus to boost the economy. The central bank bought $600 billion in Treasuries from November through June in its second round of quantitative easing, or QE2.
The Fed said Aug. 9 that U.S. economic growth was “considerably slower” than anticipated and it’s prepared to use a range of policy tools to boost the economy. It pledged to keep interest rates near zero at least until mid-2013.
“The market focus is on Bernanke’s speech this week,” Junichi Ishikawa, a Tokyo-based market analyst at IG Markets Securities Ltd. wrote in a note to clients today. “There may be increasing downward pressure for the dollar, should he mention the possibility of QE3.”
The Dollar Index, which tracks the greenback against the currencies of six major trading partners, was fell 0.2 percent to 73.841 from 74.009 last week, when it fell 0.8 percent.