Japanese Yen Jumps to Record Highs

Mar 17, 2011, 07:36

The Japanese Yen has been pushed to record highs, hitting 76.30 yen to the dollar in New York Wednesday. That will cause prices of exports to spike, as well, in foreign markets and cause imports to become more affordable in Japan.

It is not much consolation for Japanese consumers to find they can now afford a Motorola cell phone -- and no disrespect to Motorola intended whatsoever there.

Group of Seven financial leaders were scheduled to discuss the currency issue with a conference call and some expect the Bank of Japan to step in by selling yen to bring the currency back into alignment.

The yen has appreciated by 5 percent since the earthquake hit Friday. But it may be difficult to slow its rise.

"The yen rose about 20 percent after the Kobe earthquake in 1995," currency strategist Thomas Harr at Standard Chartered in Singapore told the Times.

The Nikkei 225 index in Tokyo Thursday lost 1.44 percent, a relatively stable drop considering the past three trading sessions -- off more than 6 percent Monday and off more than 10 percent Tuesday before climbing 5 percent Wednesday.

Japanese finance minister Kaoru Yosano said businesses "have ample cash, deposits and other liquid assets," although he also said the country would welcome "moral support," the Times reported.

The number of confirmed deaths and missing following the earthquake and tsunami stands at more than 10,000 but is expected to go even higher.

In some coastal towns with populations of 10,000 to 20,000, there are few left to report who is missing, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The numbers rankle on several levels as U.S. officials Wednesday also declared the Fukushima nuclear power plant to be in far worse shape than Japan is admitting.

Similarly, while the finance minister declares there is "ample cash" on hand, there is a tendency to second-guess. Japanese firms are likely to liquidate assets overseas or use cash from foreign operations to help rebuild. That leaves production questions open for workers not only in Japan, but elsewhere.

In other international markets Thursday, the Shanghai composite index in China dropped 1.14 percent while the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong fell 1.83 percent. The Sensex in India lost 1.14 percent while the S&P;/ASX 200 index in Australia was flat, off 0.06 percent.

In midday trading in Europe, the FTSE 100 index in Britain rose 1.33 percent while the DAX 30 in Germany rose 2.05 percent. The CAC 40 in France added 1.87 percent. The Stoxx Europe 600 rose 1.57 percent.

Source: UPI