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The yen may strengthen to as high as 75 per dollar, former Finance Ministry official Eisuke Sakakibara said as policymakers voiced increased concern about the threat the strengthening currency poses on the economy.

The yen “is going to hold in the 70s range and it could even go as far as 75 to 76 per dollar,” Sakakibara, who directed exchange rate policy at the Finance Ministry between 1997 and 1999 and is currently a professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, said at a forum Wednesday in Tokyo.

A Bank of Japan Policy Board member earlier in the day had signaled the central bank was prepared to “proactively” take policy action should the yen’s advance threaten growth.

The yen’s gains risk eroding the profits of exporters, a key driver of growth, at a time when the economy is recovering from the record earthquake.

The yen rose to 77.58 against the dollar at one point Wednesday, the highest since March 17, over concern that lawmakers would fail to reach an agreement on a plan to raise the U.S. debt ceiling needed to prevent default.

Sakakibara’s comments echoed his June 14 call for the yen to rise to 75 to 80 in the “not too distant future.” He became known as “Mr. Yen” during his tenure at the Finance Ministry because of his efforts to influence the yen rate through verbal and actual intervention in currency markets.

Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda told reporters he was monitoring markets closely, reiterating daily remarks he has made in the past week.

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