The Bank of Japan’s quarterly survey on business sentiment should have given the central bank fresh evidence of an economic recovery and justification for ending its “zero-interest-rate” policy.
The survey, taken in June and released Tuesday, found that major corporations were painting a bright picture of earnings and saying they would increase capital spending for the current business year.
Undercapitalized companies, too, began sounding an optimistic note on their earnings prospects. The “tankan” survey came amid speculation the BOJ might be preparing to end its ultraeasy money policy.
Chances of a policy shift later this month now appear 50-50, and it is now considered a foregone conclusion that the BOJ will raise key short-term interest rates by September, at the latest.
Still, when the dust had settled, the yen found itself under fresh selling pressure. It might be a case of buy on the rumor, sell on the news. The tankan was largely in line with expectations.
A recent slew of U.S. reports, among them the National Association of Purchasing Management’s monthly index and jobs data, pointed to benign inflation and a slowdown in the economy, while the Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged late last month as anticipated.
The question now is if the Fed’s policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee will raise key interest rates at its next meeting, on Aug. 22.
Unmistakably, the perception gap in economic prospects is narrowing between Japan and the U.S. as are the gaps in long-term interest rates between them.
With capital flow remaining sluggish, however, the dollar-yen rate remains locked within a narrow range.
A key downside factor for the yen since early this year has been selloffs of Japanese stocks by foreign investors, notably U.S.-based investors. They now appear to be awaiting the right time to buy Japanese equities.
Japanese institutional investors, on the other hand, remain in no mood to step up purchases of foreign stocks.
The dollar could come under selling pressure this summer when Japanese exporters unload their dollar holdings before closing their fiscal first half ledgers.