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USD/JPY retreats from two-week highs, amid unexpected easing from BOJ

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Shutterstock photo - -- USD/JPY fell sharply off two-week highs after the Bank of Japan detailed plans for a new round of Exchange Trade Fund purchases to complement its existing easing program, defying market expectations for a quiet monetary policy meeting on Friday.

The currency pair traded in a broad range between 121.06 and 123.52 before settling at ¥121.16, down 1.40 or 1.14%. With the considerable losses, the yen halted a four-day losing streak against the dollar. In June, the dollar hit a 12 and a half year high versus the yen, amid strong indications of an impending divergence in monetary policies between the Federal Reserve and the BOJ. On Wednesday, the Fed abandoned its seven-year policy of holding interest rates at record near-zero levels, by approving its first interest rate hike in nearly a decade.

In a unanimous vote, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) lifted the target range on its benchmark Federal Funds Rate by 25 basis points to a level between 0.25% and 0.50%.

As the Fed wound down its comprehensive asset-purchasing program last fall, Japan continued to aggressively ramp up a host of Quantitative Easing measures in order to stimulate its flagging economic growth. Last October, the BOJ provided a jolt to the Japanese economy by expanding its annual purchases of government bonds by 30 trillion yen to 80 trillion yen. Two days earlier, the Fed officially ended a five-year, $4.5 trillion bond-buying program intended to lift the economy out of The Great Recession.

The surprising decision from the BOJ on Friday came less than two weeks after upward revisions on the national economic outlook showed the Japanese economy expanded slightly in the third quarter. The revised projection to growth of 1.0% in third quarter GDP from initial estimates of a 0.8% decline expunged gloomy sentiments of a potential recession in the world's third largest economy.

The Bank of Japan said Friday that it will continue to monitor inflation developments as persistently sluggish prices remain well below its long-term targeted goal of 2%.

Japan's alternative measure of Core Inflation, which excludes food and energy prices, rebounded to 1.2% in October after two previous monthly declines. In September, core inflation in Japan fell on an annual basis for the first time since April, 2013.

"It is appropriate to encourage a smoother decline in interest rates across the entire yield curve taking into account developments in the JGB market and the situation in financial institutions' asset holdings," the BOJ said in a statement. "Moreover, as conversion of firms' and households' deflationary mindset has been progressing under Quantitative Easing and many firms have become proactive in making investment in physical and human capital, it is desirable that these developments will become further widespread. From this perspective, the Bank decided to adopt supplementary measures for Quantitative Easing."

Elsewhere, Fed data released on Friday showed that its Average or Effective Federal Funds Rate traded between 0.25 and 0.59% in Thursday's session, up from 0.08 to 0.55% a day earlier. It marked the highest top end level of the Fed's benchmark rate since November, 2011.

The U.S. Dollar Index, which measures the strength of the greenback versus a basket of six other major currencies, fell by more than 0.50% on to an intraday low of 98.67 before settling at 98.73. The index eclipsed 100.00 at the start of December to reach a 12-month high. offers an extensive set of professional tools for the financial markets.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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