Yen advances amid global currency-war rhetoric

The yen strengthened against the dollar for a second day after its 5.7% drop over the past month prompted criticism from leaders around the world that recent exchange-rate moves have been excessive.

Japan’s currency pared gains as risk appetite improved and stocks erased losses. The yen rose earlier after touching a 30- month low on Jan. 14 as the nation’s policy makers moved to boost inflation and spur growth. A gauge of volatility increased to a four-month high as Russia’s central bank said the world’s leading economies are on the brink of a “currency war.” South Africa’s rand rose from the weakest level this year.

“You’re waiting for the next piece of news to push the yen above the 90 level,” Fabian Eliasson, vice president of corporate foreign-exchange sales at Mizuho Financial Group Inc. in New York, said in a telephone interview. “A lot of the inflation target of 2% and the previous intervention has already been priced into the market.”

The yen advanced 0.3% to 88.51 per dollar at 2:37 p.m. New York time, following a 0.8% jump yesterday. It gained as much as 1.1% earlier today. The Japanese currency reached 89.67 on Jan. 14, the weakest level since June 2010. It gained 0.4% today to 117.65 per euro after reaching 120.13 on Jan. 14, the weakest since May 2011.

The shared currency depreciated 0.1% to $1.3291 after touching $1.3404 on Jan. 14, the highest since Feb. 29.

Implied volatility climbed. JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s G7 Volatility Index, based on three-month options on Group of Seven nations’ currencies, reached 8.53%, the most since Sept. 6. It fell to 7.06 on Dec. 18, the lowest since August 2007.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was little changed after falling earlier as much as 0.3%.

Rand Gains

South Africa’s rand advanced versus the greenback after falling last week for five straight days, the longest losing stretch since August. Fitch Ratings downgraded the nation Jan. 10 to BBB from BBB+, citing slowing growth and rising unemployment. The currency rose 0.2% to 8.7963 per dollar today after touching 8.8790, the least since Dec. 4.

The gain was to be expected after “pretty strong selling,” Win Thin, global head of emerging-markets strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. in New York, said in a telephone interview. “The economy has been so weak, I think a rate cut is likely this year. High yield is one of the few things helping the rand right now.”

South Africa’s benchmark interest rate is 5%. The nation’s 10-year government bonds yielded 6.7% today, compared with 1.82% for U.S. Treasuries.

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