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Japanese assets continue to attract large foreign inflows

Japanese assets saw strong overseas inflows in the week ended November 17, supported by strong corporate earnings, and as investors tempered some of the initial excitement over a series of US interest rate cuts.

Data from Japanese stock markets showed foreign investors bought a net 1.03 trillion yen ($6.88 billion) of shares, after net purchases of 1.13 trillion yen last week. Foreign investors bought about 667.92 billion yen worth of financial derivatives and about 362.96 billion yen worth of cash stocks.

Minutes from the last US Federal Reserve meeting, which showed policymakers pledging to “proceed with caution,” were not interpreted by traders as new information, and did not include any confirmation that policymakers had ruled out raising interest rates further.

On the Japanese stock market, shares of Idemitsu Kosun rose 22.6 percent last week after the Japanese refiner raised its full-year profit forecast. Lender group Mizuho Financial revised its earnings forecast upward, adding a 3.5 percent gain for the week.

Last week, Japanese stocks continued their streak of gains for the third week in a row, as the Nikkei index rose 3.12 percent, while the broader Topix index rose about 2.33 percent.

Japanese stocks have seen a net 6.99 trillion yen inflow of foreign capital so far this year, compared with about 3.35 trillion yen in net outflows in the same period last year. Foreign investors poured about 2.48 trillion yen into Japanese bonds, posting their biggest weekly net purchases in 10 weeks. They invested 2.06 trillion yen in short-term bonds and 422.6 billion yen in long-term Japanese bonds, on a net basis.

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Meanwhile, Japanese investors bought about 246.6 billion yen of foreign bonds during the week, after 4 consecutive weeks of net selling. They added a net 2.5 billion yen of long-term bonds and 244.1 billion yen of short-term foreign bonds to their portfolio… They were also net buyers of foreign stocks last week with purchases worth about $120.5 billion.

In markets, Japanese government bonds headed for a second session of gains on Friday, thanks to rising yields in the euro zone and the United States, after hitting multi-month lows earlier in the week.

The yield on 10-year Japanese government bonds rose 4 basis points to 0.765 percent, supported by a rise in European government yields overnight. Japanese markets were closed on Thursday; Because of the holiday, Friday was the first chance for Japanese government bond investors to get a rebound in overnight U.S. Treasury yields on Wednesday.

US markets were closed Thursday for Thanksgiving.

At the longest, the yield on 20-year Japanese government bonds rose 3.5 basis points to 1.485 percent. The yield on 30-year Japanese government bonds rose 3 basis points to return to 1.675 percent.

Japanese yields fell earlier in the week, with the yield on 10-year bonds falling to 0.69 percent, but they found support after the Bank of Japan cut some bond purchases. Its regular purchase (Wednesday).

According to Ryotaro Kimura, analysts believe the Bank of Japan’s warning of further cuts in its regular purchases and continued expectations that the central bank will normalize its monetary policy will prevent further declines in Japanese government bond yields. Fixed Income Strategist at “AXA Investment Managers”.

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However, he said: “Gradually increasing preference for long-term JGBs by investors looking for quick returns will keep 10-year JGB rates below 1.0 percent.”

The 5-year bond yield rose 3.5 basis points to close at a one-week high of 0.345 percent. The yield on two-year Japanese government bonds rose a basis point to 0.055 percent.

In local news, data on Friday showed Japan’s core CPI rose to 2.9 percent year-on-year in October, keeping inflation above the central bank’s 2 percent target for 19 months.

However, the Bank of Japan insisted that it was largely driven by factors such as rising global commodity prices, rather than the strong domestic demand and wage growth it was calling for.

Meanwhile, former Japanese currency official Tatsuo Yamasaki said he expects the yen will not weaken significantly from its current level of 150 yen against the dollar and may regain strength next year.

Yamazaki told Reuters in an interview that the Bank of Japan may abandon its negative interest rate policy as soon as April, when policymakers will consider the results of annual labor talks held in the spring, among other indicators.

Last year, a weak yen led to higher import prices, which led to inflation. Yamazaki said the impact of the weaker yen has somewhat eased this year, while the interest rate gap with the US, which fueled the yen’s slide, has begun to narrow. He said: “Compared to last year, the implied volatility has come down so much… that it will lose the reason for the authorities to intervene.”

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Japanese officials have pointed to currency market volatility as a key factor in deciding whether to intervene. Yamazaki, Japan’s top finance diplomat who was vice finance minister for international affairs from 2014 to 2015, played an executive role in Japan’s massive intervention in the currency market over a decade to stem a sharp rise in the value of the yen.

Nadia Barnett
Nadia Barnett
"Award-winning beer geek. Extreme coffeeaholic. Introvert. Avid travel specialist. Hipster-friendly communicator."

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