Yen slides as Europe braces for rate hikes

The yen hit a fresh 20-year low versus the dollar on Wednesday and slipped to a seven-year trough against the euro as traders awaited a European Central Bank meeting likely to leave Japan alone among peers in sticking to ultra easy monetary policy.

The ECB meets on Thursday and markets are expecting it to at least lay the groundwork for rapid rate rises, if not begin them with a small hike.

The US Federal Reserve is expected to raise its benchmark funds rate by 50 basis points next week and again in July but Bank of Japan (BOJ) officials have given no indication of abandoning accommodative settings.

The yen has accordingly lost more than 4.5% from 127.09 per dollar to touch 133.22 in eight sessions, dropping hard on crosses as investors see soaring consumer prices forcing central banks around the world to crimp demand with rapid hikes.

The yen last traded at 133.02 per dollar.

It has fallen more than 6% in 10 sessions to a seven-year low of 96.12 per Australian dollar, accelerating the slide after a surprisingly big rate hike in Australia on Tuesday.

It is down 10 sessions in a row on the euro, its longest losing streak in eight months, and found a seven-year low of 142.36 early in Asia trade.

“Yield differentials continue to favour the US dollar, with USD/JPY breaking above 132,” said Matt Simpson, a senior market analyst at brokerage City Index. “It is quite apparent that the BOJ favour defending yield curve control over a weaker currency,” he said. “135 is the next major line in the sand” the February 2002 high.”

Other moves were fairly modest in Asia as traders wait for the ECB and for US inflation figures due on Friday.

The dollar steadied after a slight dip in line with US yields overnight.

It was a fraction firmer on the risk-sensitive Australian and New Zealand dollars, leaving the Aussie at $0.7223 and kiwi at $0.6473.

The euro eased marginally to $1.0689, while sterling hovered at $1.2575. “With quantitative tightening replacing quantitative easing and 100 basis points of Fed rate hikes coming this summer, you buy bonds and sell the dollar at your peril,” said Societe Generale strategist Kit Juckes.

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