Market Fear #2: The Unwind of the Yen Carry Trade
Click to Enlarge One of the main catalysts for the severe selling pressure is an unwinding of the yen carry trade — the selling of the Japanese yen short by hedge fund types, who then used the proceeds to plunge into U.S. and European assets. That helped fuel the U.S. market melt-up and has pushed down peripheral eurozone bond yields, effectively ending all of the concerns over the health of Greece, Spain and Italy.
As long as the yen was falling, and as Tokyo actively weakened its currency via cheap-money stimulus in a last-ditch effort to reinvigorate Japan’s economy via increased export competitiveness, everything was fine. In Japan, the drop in the yen was encouraged by the assumption that the Bank of Japan was set to unveil an expansion of its quantitative easing program, perhaps as soon as this spring.
But now, as the yen surges, things are not fine. Traders are scrambling to close these positions, dumping everything en masse. The yen looks less desirable as a one-way bet as current efforts have attracted the ire of trading partners, such as South Korea, and have failed to boost wages as Tokyo desired. Instead, food and fuel prices are rising, pinching consumer spending power.
The ultimate end game for Japan, which is heavily indebted and vulnerable to any increase in government borrowing costs, casts a long shadow over the situation should any reduction in the pace of quantitative easing cause turmoil in the Japanese government bond market.
Just look at the way the proxy for the yen carry trade, the ProShares UltraShort Yen (YCS), is falling out of the sky.