Japan’s monetary authorities intervened in the foreign exchange market Wednesday for the first time in 6 1/2 years to stem the yen’s appreciation against the dollar and save the export-driven economy, Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda said.
After Noda confirmed the move, the yen fell from a 15-year high versus the dollar, tumbling the most in four months.
The yen fell past 85 per dollar for the first time in almost two weeks, trading at 85.39 at 5:32 p.m. in Tokyo. The currency had risen more than 11 percent from mid-May through Tuesday. Against the euro, the yen fell 2.6 percent to 110.78.
The yen was as strong as 82.88 to the dollar earlier, the highest level since May 1995. It fell to 109.69 per euro from 107.92. The euro was at $1.2963 from $1.2998.
Later in the day, Japan intervened in the European foreign exchange market as well, a Finance Ministry official said.
The intervention came a day after Prime Minister Naoto Kan won re-election as the head of the Democratic Party of Japan by beating Ichiro Ozawa, who had specifically called for intervention to help shelter the nation’s exporters from currency appreciation.
Noda said he contacted other nations about the step and that the action was taken unilaterally.
Japan could take further action, including additional intervention, when necessary, he also said.
“With today’s action, the Japanese government has shown its resolve to halt a hazardous rise in the value of the yen,” said Daisaku Ueno, Tokyo-based president at Gaitame.com Research Institute Ltd., a unit of Japan’s largest currency margin company. “The action was too late but better than nothing.”
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku said he believes the Finance Ministry considers ¥82 per dollar to be the line of defense to keep the strong currency from harming the economy. Sengoku also said the government is seeking to gain the understanding of the U.S. and Europe for the intervention.
Bank of Japan Gov. Masaaki Shirakawa released a statement Wednesday saying he hopes currency intervention will stabilize the foreign exchange market. BOJ Policy Board member Tadao Noda said the central bank must take swift, decisive policy action should downside risks for the economy materialize.
U.S. Treasury spokeswoman Natalie Wyeth declined to comment on Japan’s announcement.
“It’s very difficult to see this succeed unless it’s going to be supported by the Federal Reserve or the European Central Bank,” said Mitul Kotecha, Hong Kong-based global head of foreign exchange strategy at Credit Agricole CIB.
“The causes of dollar-yen moving lower haven’t changed. Fundamentally, it’s not due to events in Japan, but due to events in the U.S. and elsewhere.”
The Swiss National Bank earlier this year abandoned efforts to weaken its currency, which reached a record high against the euro this month. The franc and the yen tend to strengthen during periods of financial stress because their export-reliant economies don’t need foreign capital to balance current accounts — the broadest measure of trade.
Exports accounted for more than half of Switzerland’s gross domestic product in the second quarter, while the figure was 16 percent in Japan and 13 percent in the U.S.
The last time Japan intervened in the currency markets was March 16, 2004, when the yen was around 109 per dollar. The BOJ sold ¥14.8 trillion in the first three months of 2004, after record sales of ¥20.4 trillion in 2003.
Japan last bought the currency in 1998, purchasing ¥3.05 trillion as the exchange rate weakened to 147.66.
The yen climbed this year on speculation Europe’s sovereign debt crisis will worsen.
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