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G-7′s tacit approval of Kuroda’s fiscal experiment may weaken yen more

by Yasushi Azuma

Kyodo

Finance Minister Taro Aso and Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda may have felt relief as Group of Seven finance chiefs concluded their two-day meeting Saturday without overtly criticizing the BOJ’s monetary easing experiment, which is weakening the yen.

The dollar approached the ¥102 line Friday in New York, its highest level since October 2008 as optimism grew about the U.S. economic recovery.

The outcome of the G-7 meeting, which could be taken as tacit approval of the yen’s rapid decline, is likely to fuel further dollar buying, coupled with growing speculation that the U.S. Federal Reserve may wind down its quantitative easing policy earlier than expected.

“There were no critical views against the BOJ’s monetary easing policy or a weak yen at the G-7,” Aso told a press conference after the G-7 parley.

There was no debate regarding the dollar breaking the ¥100 level, he added.

Despite remarks by G-7 participants ahead of the conference that could be taken as warnings about the BOJ’s aggressive easing and an excessive slide in the yen, the G-7 did not issue a joint statement.

British finance chief George Osborne, who chaired the meeting, told a news conference that the G-7 reaffirmed the commitment it made in February not to target foreign exchange rates with fiscal and monetary policies.

“The G-7 statement earlier this year was a successful statement and one that has been held to,” he said.

However, it’s unknown how other participants reacted to the BOJ’s unorthodox quantitative easing and the sharp drop in the yen, because the G-7 is a closed-door gathering.

While a weak yen is a welcome development for Japan, as it helps boost exports by making its products more competitive abroad, it may negatively affect small and midsize firms by inflating import prices for raw materials.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said in a TV program Friday that Japan’s plan to stimulate its economy needs to be in line with the G-7 accord in February to avoid currency devaluation competition. “We’ve made clear that we’ll keep an eye on that.”Asked to comment on Lew’s remarks, a Japanese official told reporters Friday, “We are abiding by that (G-7 agreement).”

“We don’t mind if they want to monitor our movements. We are not intervening (in the currency market),” the official told reporters.

Repeating that the BOJ’s unorthodox monetary policy is only aimed at the domestic objective of defeating deflation, the official said: “The BOJ doesn’t have a mandate of targeting the exchange rates.”

If the yen continues to depreciate further, Japan will eventually find itself in the hot seat, facing criticism from emerging economies concerned about potential spillover effects, such as massive fund inflows and asset bubbles. The advanced economies, such as the United States, may complain that the weaker yen is denting exports to Japan.