The yen is an enigma to many forex market participants. It doesn’t trade like the European currencies, nor does it move like the commodity currencies. Oftentimes, it trades against the dollar the opposite way we would expect given the broader market actions.
There are a lot of things that go into yen trading, like the fiscal year-end in March, that make it unique. That has been furthered along in recent times by the aftereffects of the earthquake. This is all within the broader context of an economy that has struggled to do anything for many years now, with little prospect of reversing that any time soon. The low Japanese interest rates as a result have kept the yen at or near the top of the list of favorite currencies to borrow for carry trade purposes.
We saw a lot of the Japanese bugaboos hit the yen hard during the February/March period when USD/JPY rallied from testing 76 to the downside to probing 84 on the upside. That came after many months of the market going sideways at a time when the markets were looking at the US economy improving, which was supporting the dollar.
As you can see from the chart below, the weekly Bollinger Bands got VERY narrow as a result of the long consolidation. The rally since the range break has taken the Band width in the opposite direction, getting it to near its highest level in the last couple years.
The market has obviously since retraced some of the rapid rally, thanks in part to weaker US economic data starting to get traders thinking the Fed may decide it needs to act to further loosen monetary policy. We’ll find out this week just how far down the path that thought really has gone. In the mean time, we have an interesting technical picture.
I’ve added two lines to the weekly chart which represent important levels for the market from here. The upper one is the high from April of 2011 above 85. The lower line is the high from late October and early November that should now be support. Those create a very good set of bounds between which the market can consolidate while the Bollinger Bands work back toward at least a more normal width.
Drilling down a bit, it is worth looking at the price distribution charts to fine tune the analysis. The chart below features monthly distributions (based on daily moves). Where they are thick, the market has spent the most time. Call these attraction zones. Where they are thin, the market hasn’t spent much time there at all. Call these rejection areas.
This month USD/JPY moved down to test the price level from February where the market spent the most time (though granted, not very much because of that month’s trending action). The market has bounced from there, essentially rejecting what should have been a good attraction area. As this was also above the peak from Q3 last year, it can be considered an indication of strength. As a result, I like the prospects for the market to work back up toward recent highs. That is perfectly reasonable, even within an overall consolidation.
So what’s the implication of this?
Well, if the market just shifts into consolidation for a while then I think it probably just indicates a market that overreacted to the recent softer US data (especially the jobs report). If USD/JPY eventually extends the rally from 76 to break the April 2011, it will probably do so on the basis of a combination of the concerns about US growth abating but the same not being the case for Japan. The limiting factor, though, is the trade imbalance. If the US economy strengthens sufficiently to increase import demand, that will eventually flow through to benefit the yen.
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