Nikkei falters as yen rises ahead of G-20 meeting

LONDON - Japanese stocks underperformed on Friday as the yen strengthened ahead of a Group of 20 meeting of finance ministers and central bankers in Moscow, where the currency’s recent depreciation is set to be the focus of attention.

By Pan Pylas (AP)

Published: Sat 16 Feb 2013, 9:58 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 7:51 AM

Big swings in the currency markets over the past few weeks have raised speculation of a “currency war” — where countries competitively devalue their currencies to gain a competitive edge — that could derail the global economic recovery. Worries that Japan is embarked on an economic course that includes a sharp depreciation of the yen have lain behind the recent tensions.

Ahead of the meeting, which was due to start later on Friday and run through today, the yen was in favour with analysts expecting pressure to be exerted on Japan’s finance minister and central banker to at least commit to not allow the yen to fall much more. By mid-morning London time, the dollar was 0.5 per cent lower at ¥92.57 while the euro fell 0.6 per cent to ¥123.47.

The strengthening yen hit Japanese stocks as it makes life more difficult for its exporters. The Nikkei 225 stock average fell 1.2 per cent to close at 11,173.83.

“Once again Japan continues to grab headlines with plenty of yen positioning ahead of the G-20 meetings,” said Stan Shamu, a market strategist at IG Markets. “The Nikkei has lost ground as the yen appreciates heading into the meeting.”

“While the yen has firmed in anticipation that the Japanese government may have its knuckles rapped by the G-20 today on the issue of currency manipulation, Japan can use in its defence the fact that the policies used by the BoJ are not dissimilar to those of the Fed or the BoE,” said Jane Foley, senior currency strategist at Rabobank International.

With all eyes on Moscow, there was little going on in stock markets.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was more or less unchanged at 6,329 while Germany’s DAX was steady at 7,628. The CAC-40 in France outperformed its peers, trading 0.3 per cent higher at 3,680.

Wall Street was poised for a muted opening too, with both Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures down 0.1 per cent.

The euro was also fairly flat, trading 0.1 per cent lower at $1.3338.

Earlier in Asia, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.1 per cent to 23,444.56 while South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.1 per cent to 1,981.18. Mainland China and Taiwan were closed for Lunar New Year holidays.

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