Dollar sales by Japanese individual investors on the Tokyo Financial Exchange Inc. rose to a record high on speculation the U.S. economy will suffer a recession.
Housewives, pensioners and businessmen accelerated sales of the U.S. currency this week, taking advantage of its rally to a one-month high against the yen. The exchanges share of so-called margin trading, borrowing money to buy and sell currencies, was 8.6 percent in 2007 based on figures from the Financial Futures Association of Japan.
“They do not seem to believe in the U.S. economic recovery later this year at all,” said Yuji Kameoka, a senior economist and currency analyst at Daiwa Institute of Research, a unit of Japan’s second-largest brokerage. “They are expecting the dollar will head south.”
The U.S. currency traded at 107.84 yen as of 2 p.m. in Tokyo from 107.87 yen in New York yesterday. It rose to 108.60 yen on Feb. 14, the highest since Jan. 14. The currency has fallen 13 percent since June 22, when it reached a 4 1/2-year high of 124.13 yen.
Short positions held by individual investors on the dollar against the yen, wagers the U.S. currency will fall, reached 20,589 contracts on Feb. 13, the most since July 2006 when Japan’s largest financial futures market started collecting data. The contracts are denominated in 10,000 units of the foreign currency.
Japanese investors have 1,536 trillion yen ($14.2 trillion) in financial assets, according to figures from the Bank of Japan released on Dec. 17.
The dollar headed for the biggest weekly loss since December against the euro after U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke signaled the bank may cut interest rates further to avert a recession.
“Japanese individuals probably believe U.S. interest rates will go down amid a slowing economy, eroding the yield premium against the yen,” said Tomoko Fujii, head of Japan economics and strategy at Bank of America Corp. in Tokyo, the second- biggest U.S. bank. “They are waiting for dollar appreciation to sell.”
The U.S. currency may rise to 113 yen by June 30, Fujii forecast.
The difference in yield between benchmark two-year U.S. and Japanese bonds, among the securities most sensitive to interest rate changes, was 1.28 percentage points today, the smallest since October 2003.
The popularity of currency investment among Japanese individuals has soared in Tokyo. Trading of currencies in Japan using borrowed funds rose 162 percent in the third quarter to 185 trillion yen from the same period in 2006, data from the Financial Futures Association of Japan showed.
To contact the reporter on this story: Kosuke Goto in Tokyo at firstname.lastname@example.org