Contrasting fortunes for GBP and JPY

The main FX movers over recent days have been JPY and GBP. Japan’s non interventionist FX stance and the approach of fiscal half year end on September 30 have given markets plenty of appetite to push the JPY higher.  In particular a change in Japanese tax rules which waives taxes on repatriated profits suggests there will be more repatriation flows than usual ahead of fiscal half year end.  Such repatriation flows have played a role in the appreciation of the JPY.    

Even if such flows do not actually materialise the mere speculation that they exist will be sufficient to keep the JPY supported.  Helping the JPY on its way is the view that Japanese officials are not particularly concerned about a strengthening JPY although it is worth noting that Japan’s new finance minister Fujii did note that he was carefully watching the JPY’s rise.  Nonetheless, it appears that the new government’s policy in Japan is in sharp contrast to the previous government’s FX policy which favoured a weaker JPY.  

The positive shift in JPY sentiment over recent weeks has been particularly evident in speculative positioning data which reveals that net JPY speculative positions have hit their highest since 3 February 2009, a sharp turnaround from negative net positioning just three months ago.  Further JPY gains are likely over the short term as speculative appetite for the currency continues to improve. 

In contrast to Japan, UK officials appear to be more comfortable with a weaker currency. Recent comments by Bank of England (BoE) Governor King that a weaker GBP would help exporters has weighed on GBP.  Consequently, speculative sentiment for GBP deteriorated particularly sharply last week, with CFTC IMM data revealing the biggest short GBP positioning since early April 2009.  Even though the latest UK Monetary Policy Committee minutes revealed no sign that the BoE is contemplating expanding quantitative easing, GBP continues to be a much unloved currency.  

Some likely improvements in economic data this week may provide relief to GBP but it will prove limited against the weight of negative GBP sentiment.  The Hometrack housing survey revealed a further increase in UK house prices in September and data this week will likely reveal an upside revision to Q2 GDP, and an improvement in manufacturing confidence.  Overall, despite the encouraging data GBP/USD looks vulnerable to a further downside push.

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