Japanese officials have signaled their blessing of a weaker yen as polls show Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s coalition may expand its Lower House majority in this weekend’s election.
Finance Minister Taro Aso said Tuesday that the yen’s slide has helped improve the economy and increase jobs, while adding that officials are monitoring the currency.
Economy minister Akira Amari said a drop in energy prices will offset the impact from the yen’s weakness.
The yen fell to a seven-year low of 121.85 per dollar Monday, before rallying somewhat in Tokyo trade on Tuesday.
Aso’s comments mark a turnaround from last month, when he warned the yen was falling too fast. It was the strongest statement by a top policymaker since the Bank of Japan unexpectedly added to currency-depreciating quantitative easing on Oct. 31. Consumers have been squeezed by costlier imports, and corporate bankruptcies driven by a weak yen rose to a record in November.
“If Japanese officials support the current level as being good for the economy in a holistic sense, then the market will continue to push dollar-yen higher,” Robert Rennie, Westpac Banking Corp.’s head of currency and commodity strategy in Sydney, said Tuesday. “The other Abe policies have essentially been put to one side: It is the reform agenda, it is the BOJ, it is QE, and if that drives a weaker yen, so be it.”
Abe has framed Sunday’s election as a referendum on his economic strategy of monetary easing, fiscal stimulus and structural reforms. Opinion polls published by five major newspapers last week showed that the coalition led by Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party will probably keep its two-thirds majority in the Lower House, allowing it to override Upper House decisions.
Oil has slumped to a five-year low, easing the strain on households coping with a yen that is 37 percent undervalued compared with the dollar in terms of purchasing power, the most among developed-market currencies, data shows.
The drop in energy prices combined with a depreciating yen helped boost Japanese stocks to a seven-year high this week. Toyota Motor Corp. last month predicted record profit for a second year as a weaker yen raised the value of vehicles sold abroad.
“The government isn’t going to try to talk down a weak yen when it’s flowing into stock market gains right before the election,” said Yuji Saito, director of foreign exchange at Credit Agricole in Tokyo. “For now, just saying they’re watching the exchange rate is enough.”