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Dollar falls to 14-year low vs yen on US outlook

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A Tokyo money dealer reacts as the U.S. dollar is traded at between 86.43 yen and 86.48 yen on the Tokyo foreign exchange in Tokyo, Japan, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2009. The dollar has tumbled to 14-year low against the Japanese yen after traders reacted to indications that U.S. interest rates will remain low and that Federal Reserve isn’t overly concerned about the dollar’s slide.

Dollar falls to 14-year low vs yen on US outlook

TOKYO – The dollar tumbled to 14-year low against the yen Thursday, adding to pressure on Japan‘s beleaguered exporters, amid indications U.S. interest rates will remain low and the Federal Reserve isn’t overly concerned about the dollar’s slide.

The dollar sank to 86.27 yen in Tokyo trading, the lowest since July 1995, and sending the Nikkei 225 stock average down by 0.6 percent to 9,383.24. Dealers were not ruling out further weakness in the currency.

Analysts said some investors were selling the dollar to buy gold, which surged to a record Thursday, and other commodities.

A strong yen is bad for Japan’s economy because it erodes overseas income for the country’s big auto and electronics exporters.

Toshiba Corp. President Norio Sasaki said the yen’s appreciation “could have a severe impact on our businesses.”

“I would like governments to coordinate in a bid to halt a surge in the yen,” Sasaki told public broadcaster NHK.

Toshiba, which makes everything from nuclear power plants to household electronics, is forecasting a $550 million loss for the fiscal year through March.

The dollar’s latest plunge also adds to concerns over China’s tight currency controls, which its trading partners say are giving it an unfair advantage in export markets.

While the yen, euro and Australian dollar are bearing the brunt of the dollar’s weakness, the Chinese yuan remains loosely pegged to the dollar — a level that American critics say is artificially low. Beijing has been cool to suggestions it ease its currency practices to allow the yuan to strengthen.

Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii said Japan “will take appropriate steps if foreign exchange rates move abnormally.” But investors drove up the yen anyway, unconvinced that Tokyo — which hasn’t intervened in the currency markets since 2004 — will step in to sell the yen to try to weaken it.

“The perception is that Japanese authorities aren’t overly worried about the dollar and won’t intervene,” said Koji Fukaya, senior currency strategist with Deutsche Securities in Tokyo.

The dollar has also been falling against the 16-nation euro, which rose to a 15-month high Wednesday. It eased to $1.5103 on Thursday from $1.5132 late Wednesday.

The renewed slump in the dollar was driven largely by the publication Tuesday of the minutes to the Fed’s last rate-setting meeting on Nov. 3-4.

The Fed said at the time that it plans to keep interest rates at “exceptionally low levels” for an “extended period” — currently the Fed funds rate stands at a range between zero and 0.25 percent — and that the fall in the dollar had been “orderly.”

Currency traders seized on the reference to the dollar as the Fed is usually wary of talking about changes in currency values.

With the Fed likely to keep rates low, investors are looking to commodities and riskier assets for higher returns, said Masafumi Yamamato, chief foreign exchange strategist at Barclays Capital.

Japan seems to have adopted a policy of “benign neglect” regarding exchange rates, he said.

But with the government’s alarm over deflation, or falling prices, in the economy, policymakers may become more proactive, Yamamoto said. A strong dollar tends to fuel deflation by reducing the price of imports and raw materials. Falling prices can cut into corporate profits and could lead to lower wages.

“They must change if they want to stop deflation and they want to reduce the negative consequences on the Japanese economy through the currency market,” he said. “If there is no change, the dollar-yen will fall toward 85 yen.”

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