The Japanese yen sank against the dollar on Monday, while local stocks also tumbled as markets speculated over the next Bank of Japan Governor and the extension of the bank’s ultra-loose monetary policy.
The yen sank 0.6% to the dollar and was trading close to one-month lows, while the Nikkei 225 stock index tumbled nearly 1% for the day.
Media reports suggested that the Japanese government could nominate a successor to current BOJ governor Haruhiko Kuroda as soon as this week. But the main point of focus was on whether the central bank’s ultra-loose monetary policy will be maintained under the new management.
Reports on Friday suggested that economist Kazuo Ueda – a perceived outsider to Japan’s political establishment – will be nominated as the governor. But Ueda recently expressed support for the BOJ’s ultra-accommodative policy, stating that it did not require changing.
This battered expectations for an imminent shift in the BOJ’s ultra-dovish policy, even as the country grapples with high inflation and a weakening currency.
Reports on Monday said that Ueda will likely let economic data guide an exit from the BOJ’s ultra-dovish policy.
“If we put (Ueda) in a dove-hawk spectrum, he will still probably lean towards dovish. That means that he is likely to shift monetary policy only gradually and the BoJ’s data dependency – inflation and wage growth – will become more important,” analysts at ING said in a note.
A widening gulf between Japanese and U.S. interest rates had weighed heavily on the yen through 2022. This, coupled with increasing raw material costs, saw inflation shoot up to over 40-year highs during the year.
With inflation now trending at twice the BOJ’s annual 2% target, speculation is rife over when the BOJ could begin tightening policy. The central bank had unexpectedly widened the band within which it allows yields on benchmark government bonds to trade in December, ratcheting up hopes for more tightening.
But it then ducked expectations for more measures in January, which in turn spurred increased volatility in local markets.
Japanese stocks also sank in recent sessions on fears of a potential end to the BOJ’s accommodative stance, which had seen local stocks enjoy nearly a decade-long high-liquidity environment.