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The Japanese yen fell to a seven-year low of 125 against the US dollar on Monday as the Bank of Japan continued easing its monetary policy further widening the gap with the US Federal Reserve’s hawkish tone.

But instead of seeing it as a threat to the Japanese economy, the BOJ reiterated that a weaker yen would have positive effects on pushing Japan’s GDP higher.

USDJPY D1

BOJ’s divergence from Fed

The US central bank recently raised interest rates for the first time since 2018 and signalled more rate hikes in the coming months to tame rising inflation. The US consumer inflation rate skyrocketed to a four-year high of 7.9% in February, prompting the Fed to take a more hawkish stance despite the lingering COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical uncertainties.

Conversely, the BOJ continued to loosen its monetary policy, reiterating that it would maintain interest rates at ultra-low levels to support Japan’s economic recovery and as inflation stays below its 2% target. The central bank also offered to purchase an unlimited amount of government bonds from Monday through Thursday this week at 0.25%.

The offer is for debts with maturities of more than five years and up to 10 years. The move is one of the BOJ’s attempts to contain rising bond yields despite US Treasury yields reaching new multi-year highs.

Adding pressure to the yen

The measure further weighed on the yen on Monday, with economists from ING Bank expecting upside risks to prevail beyond 125. They said "130 is well within reach in the near term unless the bond environment improves.”

A depreciation in the Japanese yen would drive up the costs of imports, ultimately hurting households as it would increase the costs of imported goods and other goods for consumption.

It also pushed Japan’s core inflation to a two-year high of 0.8% in March, quicker than market forecasts.

US and Japan inflation and interest rates

Preference for a weaker currency

While many economies beef up efforts to boost the value of their currencies, Japan has been aiming to devalue its currency to gain a competitive advantage in foreign trade. A weak yen will make Japan-made goods more competitive overseas and increase profits that Japanese companies make in foreign markets. It would also lift services exports and increase net income receipts from abroad when converted into yen.

Back in January, the BOJ estimated that a 10% drop in the yen would boost Japan’s gross domestic product by about 1%. In the final months of 2021, Japan’s GDP rose 4.6% year over year, lower than its previous forecast for a 5.4% rise. Fitch Ratings expects Japan’s inflation at 1.8% this year on the back of higher energy prices and yen depreciation.

Preventing another 1998 yen volatility

As the yen continues to fall against the greenback, the markets are closely watching for a recurrence of a wild rebound that occurred in the USDJPY in 1998 at the height of the Asian financial crisis. At the time, the US dollar fell by almost 15% versus the yen from its previous peak. That slump was preceded by a three-year yen depreciation as Japanese authorities believed the yen was overvalued.

Will the yen hit 150 against the greenback?

The question of whether the yen will reach 150 versus the US dollar is more of a when as the Fed maintains its hawkish stance and as the BOJ is poised to keep its loose monetary policy setting in the medium term. This would further widen the gap between their policies, sending the yen lower as Japan continues to book current account deficits due to a jump in oil import prices.

Sign up and trade the USDJPY today

USD/JPY on a downtrend as safe haven strengthens

Volatility lies ahead as we head into the election season. One of the places investors and traders like to park their money is the iconic Safe Haven, the Japanese Yen.

USD/JPY on a downtrend

After the initial spike in the US dollar strength, the Japanese Yen strengthened against the US dollar by around 5.2%. Not as drastic as commodity pairs such as the Australian Dollar against the US dollar; however, the trend of the strengthening of the Yen has been consistent and strong.

Many banks see a strengthening in the Yen against the US dollar as we enter volatile times ahead. Bank of America's Global FX Team stated that they predict to see the USD/JPY pair at 103, citing the "reintroduction of COVID-19 measures in most countries, particularly in Europe". They further state that the Yen has gotten stronger during the recent periods of weakness in the stock markets.

US weakening providing tailwinds for the Yen

However, it's not just the Yen that is in the picture. Weakness in the US dollar may provide tailwinds for the Yen. Many large institutions such as Goldman, UBS, and Invesco predicting a weaker dollar, citing Biden extending his lead over President Donald Trump.

Japan has not been in the news much regarding their Coronavirus response. Similarly to Australia, they went with no lockdown opting for social distancing and face masks, trusting citizens to continue their life with the Coronavirus in mind. However, just like Australia, the method backfired. They experienced their second wave, which was larger than the first. They have since tamed the Virus, however, at a significant cost. The political risk of a sudden change in Prime Minister saw the Yen jump.

With elections coming up ahead, there is a high chance we see the Yen rally against the US dollar in the future.

Week ahead - GDP and Inflation

Last week was a bloody week in the markets, with US equities selling off on fears that the market has been overstretched. The NASDAQ, Dow Jones, and the S&P 500 were down 4.52%, 3.66%, and 3.28%, respectively.

As we approach election season in the United States, traders should be looking out for changes in future policies which may whipsaw the market.

Investors and traders are heading into a turbulent start of the week, with Hong Kong/ China Tensions increasing as we get close to election season. This may incentivize countries like Australia and the United States to implement policy changes that many move the markets.

Leshgo! Here is your week ahead.

All dates are in NZDT.

Last week's equity selloff

Tuesday, 8th September – Japan GDP Growth Annualized

It has been a turbulent week for Japan, as total Coronavirus cases are starting to creep up amidst Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's resignation. Furthermore, Typhoon Haishen just landed, causing more disruption to an already chaotic year. Analysts predict a significant drop in GDP growth by 28.6% - Brutal, considering the Japanese economy has been in the slump in the past couple of years.

Tuesday 8th and 10th September – Euro Area GDP Growth Quarter over Quarter and ECB Interest Rate Decision.

With the European bloc having a relatively collective response regarding the pandemic, individual countries have started to release specific stimulus plans. For example, France revealed a 100 billion Euro stimulus plan, the biggest than any other country in Europe. The stimulus is just under 4% of its GDP. Analysts predict a 12.1% drop in their growth rate quarter over quarter, with the ECB expected to leave rates at 0%.

Thursday, 10th September – Bank of Canada Interest rate decision

Canada has been relatively prosperous in trying to contain the Coronavirus without implementing a strict lockdown. In Quebec, the Coronavirus's epicenter earlier this year has stated that they plan to have students return to school as soon as possible. Economists predict the central bank to keep interest rates at 0.25%, with 80% of Economists surveyed by Finder expecting no rate change until 2022. Oxford Economists Tony Stillo and Michael Davenport stated that the Bank of Canada has signaled that they will keep the interest rates at 0.25% "until economic slack is absorbed so that the 2% inflation target is sustainably achieved."

Friday, 11th September – UK GDP Year over Year

As the United Kingdom continues to grapple with the Coronavirus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson insists that Brexit talks should continue with no delay. The United Kingdom has recorded over 347,000 Coronavirus cases, with the UK recording the highest number of daily Coronavirus cases today since May.

Saturday, 12th August – United States Inflation Rate Year over Year

Similar to Japan, the United States has a turbulent couple of weeks ahead. With main market indices diving, traders and investors should brace for market volatility in the times ahead alongside election season getting into full swing. With the Federal Reserve pledging a new tool combatting inflation, these data figures may be too early to see whether this tool is working. However, a higher than expected figure than the market forecast of 1.2% may see Gold push higher alongside the dollar go lower.

Trade safe this week ahead.

Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe resigns

Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe is set resign to after worsening health conditions.

The Japanese Yen sold off against the US Dollar on the news

Shinzo Abe, 65 years old, has been battling Ulcerative Colitis, a chronic digestive condition that also forced him to step down as Prime Minister in 2006-2007. During the announcement, the Japanese TOPIX pulled back with the Japanese Yen strengthening against the U.S. dollar by 0.5%.

Abe + economics = Abenomics

When Abe took the role of Prime Minister, he quickly started economic reforms, which promptly coined the term “Abenomics” by economists. His economics was an attempt to help pull the country out of the GDP slump Japan were in. Before Abe was nominated in 2012, Japan's nominal GDP was the same in 1991. Deflation was also on the rise due to the increase in the aging population not willing to spend money. After a year he was elected, the stock market rose 55% alongside an approval rating of 70% at the time.

Abenomics focused on looser monetary policy, fiscal stimulus, and structural reform – most famously, implementing negative interest rates alongside quantitative easing. Immediate effects were seen, with a weakening in the Japanese Yen boosting exports and an increase in the stock market alongside a decrease in unemployment. Between 2012 and 2016, the Japanese Yen depreciated against the U.S. dollar by 50%.

It is uncertain who will take Abe’s spot. Shigeru Ishiba, the former defense minister, is regarded as the best pick from voters as he has backed economic policies more populist that Abe’s when Japan is seeing a rise in a populist movement. Other potential candidates include Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga can take over Abe’s role.

With the Coronavirus creeping back up in Japan, Shinzo Abe’s resignation comes at a time where political insatiability will come as a burden to a full recovery of an already declining economy from the Pandemic.

Central banks! Your week ahead

Central banks, central banks, central banks. This week ahead, central bankers from all around the world will conduct their annual Jackson hole meeting in which historically they discussed the macro-environment and, of course, monetary policy. However, due to Coronavirus restrictions, they cannot meet at Jackson Hole for the first time in 40 years. Like many meetings, they will be hosting a virtual meeting, available for the public to tune into. The main focus? “Navigating the Decade Ahead: Implications for Monetary Policy” – Or put simply, Monetary policy: Coronavirus edition. Here is your week ahead.

Wednesday, 26th August – U.S. Durable goods order

The Coronavirus continues to ravage the United States, with no visible end in sight. Currently, the United States recorded 48,163 new cases today, with 1,013 deaths. It is an awesome sight (the literal meaning of awesome, as in awe-some) as the U.S. stock market continues to rally to new highs, and billionaires see their wealth surge. The U.S. Durable Goods Order figure measures the cost of orders received by manufacturers for durable goods, including vehicles and appliances. As these are significant investments, they provide a good bearing on U.S. consumers (buying a new car when you just got laid off is unlikely). Therefore a higher than expected figure should boost U.S. equities and the U.S. dollar. The previous print was at a 7.6% increase in the cost of durable goods purchased, with consensus to see that number rise only 3.6% this month. 

Thursday, 27th August – Switzerland GDP Quarter over Quarter

With just under 40,000 confirmed cases, it is fair to say that Switzerland and many nations are continuing to grapple with the fight against the Coronavirus. However, just like with many other European countries, Switzerland is experiencing a resurgence of the virus. Switzerland recorded more than 300 new Coronavirus cases on Friday just before their quarterly update on Thursday. Analysts predict a print of -8.7% decline in GDP, from a 2.6% decline in the first quarter. 

 

Thursday 27th August – Jackson hole meeting, US GDP, Fed Jerome Powell Speech and Bank of Canada’s Governor Bailey Speech

Obviously not in Jackson hole due to the Coronavirus, Central banks from all around the world will host an online meeting discussing how monetary policy will be affected in the future from the Coronavirus pandemic. For the first time in 40 years, not only will the meeting not take place at Jackson Hole, but the conference will be available for the public to watch live. Furthermore, US GDP figures alongside both Fed Chairman Jerome Powell and Governor Macklem from Bank of Canada is set to speak. There is no doubt that this will be a stormy day in the markets.

 

Friday, 28th August -BoE  Governor Bailey speech

The United Kingdom continues to record new Coronavirus cases, logging over 1,041 new cases today. Investors and traders are wary of the possibility of negative rates in the future, with Deputy Governor Dave Ramsden stating that the BoE has “further headroom” to go with regards to monetary policy. The Bank of England currently holds interest rates at 0.1% and maintained its 745 Billion asset purchase target. They predict that the U.K. economy will not return to its pre-Covid levels until the end of 2021. 

 A big week ahead with monetary policy and forecasts from top Economists and Central bankers. Trader and Investors should be wary of the speeches ahead before placing any trades this week. 

We're starting something new this week! If you prefer to listen to the articles rather than reading them, we will slowly make them available on all platforms where podcasts are supported! For now, you can listen to the article here.

 Safe trading!  

UK CPI, Japan GDP - Week ahead

There will be a week ahead post where the data being released will revolve around how well the economy chugging along, and analysts will argue whether a country has reached its peak or whether the NASDAQ is undervalued at 40 times earnings. However, this week isn't that week. Coronavirus continues to be the primary context around headlines, showing that we are still in the pandemic's neck. I have a feeling that it will be like this until real progress regarding a vaccine is achieved. Here is your week ahead.

Sunday, August 16th – GDP of Japan, Quarter over Quarter

Japan continues to post significant Coronavirus figures, with over 1,200 Saturday, topping 1,000 for the third straight day with cluster outbreaks as summer holidays begin. Initially praised for their laissez-faire regarding their quarantine strategy, i.e., has come back to bite them. However, unlike New Zealand, where they essentially forced everyone back into their homes at the slight hint of a potential outbreak, Japan continues to allow its residents outside. For example, they placed restrictions on the maximum number of spectators, concerts, professional sports, and other events – to 5,000. This has made analysts wary of Japan, considering they had low GDP growth before the Coronavirus pandemic. Analysts predict a contraction of 7.3% last quarter, at an annualized pace of 26%. A 7.3% contraction this week ahead would mark the largest GDP decline post-world war.

Tuesday, August 18th – RBA Meeting minutes, report

Like Japan, Australia was praised for its laissez-faire approach resulting in early positive results in Coronavirus cases. However, also similar to Japan, that approach has come back to bite them. Most notably in the state of Victoria, in which the Coronavirus has run rampant. Although the rate of daily increase in cases has slowed down due to the Premiere of Victoria, forcing a mandatory quarantine to all citizens, they are still recording triple-digit cases regularly. They recorded 279 new cases today, with 16 deaths. However, this is an improvement from 2 weeks ago, when they were recording jumps from 200 to 700 new cases in a day. Australia's RBA before the "second wave," took a confident approach that Australia would be capable of pulling out of the pandemic similar to New Zealand with a lower economic cost, and their monetary policy showed that. However, due to the second wave, the report being released will likely be extremely dovish and hint and further rate cuts in the future.

Wednesday, August 19th – UK CPI figures

The UK has seen its Coronavirus curve slowly rise, and that has made government officials anxious. They have recorded over 1,077 new Coronavirus cases in the pasty day, which is slightly under their 1,097 seven-day moving average. However, analysts predict CPI a small change from a 0.6% increase in the CPI to a 0.7% increase this week ahead. If the increase is larger than expected, we should see the GBP strengthen against its peers.

Wednesday, August 19th – Canada CPI Year over Year

Canada was one of the only nations to not impose a strict lockdown for its citizens and come out flattening the curve. Yesterday, Canada confirmed 237 new cases. While not entirely eliminated, the country has not experienced breakouts similar to that of Japan and Australia. Previously, the CPI was up 0.7% compared to a year ago, with analysts predicting a CPI increase of 0.2% this week ahead. With such wild variations, it is yet to be seen what the CPI is going to be. However, a rise in CPI signals a bullish stance in the Canadian dollar, with a hawkish central bank.

Thursday, August 20th – USA FOMC Minutes

The United States is not close to flattening the curve.

A staggering number: 5,565,114 Coronavirus cases, 173,080 deaths – a 6% mortality rate. The United States has not been able to flatten the curve. With an election coming up, President Donald Trump has tried to re-open the economy to boost his chances come election time. However, this has not worked. His selflessness has cost many people their lives. Usually, a market-moving event, TD Securities analysts noted that "at the July FOMC meeting, the Committee did not imitate any new policy actions, and that changes to the statement were minor." Combining this with August being a month were a lot of traders and managers take leave for their summer holidays, we should expect this to be relatively non-market moving.

As stated above, this month tends to be quite slow due to many traders, investors, and asset managers taking leave for the summer holidays. Therefore, the market should be relatively muted at this time. This may be an excellent opportunity for traders and investors to backtest their strategy or even paper trade to practice for the coming months. Many elections are coming, such as the United States and New Zealand general elections, which will cause significant market moves.

Trade safe! Have a good week ahead.

Battle between the safe havens: USD vs JPY

The Dollar Index at the peak of the Coronavirus lockdown rallied, almost touching 103 – the highest level since 2017. The Dollar index shows the relative strength of the USD to a basket of other currencies. However, a couple of currencies strengthened as everyone was hoarding the USD – The JPY.

The U.S Dollar Index

USD/JPY

If the JPY got stronger, why was everyone talking about USD being a safe haven?

The strength in the US dollar was primarily due to market participants selling risky US-based assets such as US equities due to the market turmoil. As investors and traders sold their assets, they were getting paid in US dollars, pushing the US dollar demand.

 

Why did the JPY rally?

I guess you would call this the “OG” Safe Haven. With the appreciation of the US Dollar relative to other countries but the Japanese Yen, there was a net increase in demand for the Yen relative to the US Dollar. There are many factors as to why the Japanese Yen appreciates during times of uncertainty, with one factor explaining that net demand increase – Japanese citizens’ net foreign assets peaked to 726 Billion in 2019. However, once risk-off events occur, there is a repatriation of those foreign assets (often denoted in US Dollars) bank into their home currency, the Yen. Although Government Debt to GDP is around 230%, Japanese citizens do not share this trait of excess debt. As the New York Times stated, “The Japanese Government is in deep debt, but the rest of Japan has ample money to share.”

The JPY Carry Trade

Another reason may be due to traders winding down their “positive carry” trade. In short, by buying a currency with a positive yielding interest rate and shorting a currency with an interest rate less than the currency you purchased, the overnight swap fee is positive. This is because the interest you gain by holding the former currency is less than the interest you pay shorting the latter currency. With the Bank of Japan having negative interest rates since 2016, it has been a popular short for the carry trade with currency with a relatively higher interest rate like Australia. However, in risk off events such as the Coronavirus, positive yielding currencies tend to get their respective central banks cutting rates, making the carry trade less profitable. Therefore, traders cut their positions, which requires them to cut their positions, buying back the Yen they shorted, increasing demand.

However, one of the main reasons the JPY appreciated against the USD during peak lockdown was because people believe that it is a safe haven. It does not necessarily matter why it is, only that people believe it is. If you know the relationship between risk-off and the Yen's appreciation, then you assume it to be true.

 

Correlation between Risk and the JPY

Since the market has generally been risk on/off due to the Coronavirus, it would be interesting to see whether the Yen has played out as a safe haven. If we take 20th March as the start date (peak of the Dollar index this year) and compare the prices of the SP500 and the USD/JPY pair, we find a correlation of -0.498 (~-0.5). This means on average, a 1% increase in the market, there is a 0.5% decrease in the JPY (vice versa). This shows a relatively strong relationship between risk-on and risk-off assets as off late. In comparison, the average correlation between the SP500 and the USD/JPY pair has been around -0.28. 

 

Which is better for your portfolio – the JPY or the USD?

 

The USD is likely the better choice for your portfolio as this enables you to enter into positions when the time is right. However, it may be worth noting this relationship for swing traders if you want to take advantage of risk on/risk off situations. 

This week ahead: Jerome Powell Testimony, Inflation rates

Markets brace for the week ahead as the Coronavirus continues to disrupt the world order. As the death toll has topped 300,000 worldwide, markets have shown a tentative appetite towards risk-on assets. Oil is up 7.45% the past week, with the S&P 500 down 1.58%. Gold is up 2.3%.

Oil in blue, S&P 500 in red, Gold in orange. Figures below are in USD, dates are in NZST.

Japan's GDP Growth Annualized – Today, May 18th

As Japanese residence defying lockdown rules, analysts predict a 4.6% contraction in annualized GDP growth. The government issued a $1.1 trillion fiscal stimulus package in early April, which including lowered interest rates and asset purchases. This  stimulus package represents 21% of their GDP. in With an aging population and a slowing pre-coronavirus GDP growth rate, investors and traders will be looking for any positive sentiment in the report today to bolster the JPY as a safe-haven currency.

Fed's Jerome Powell to testify to congress - Tuesday, May 19th

A key event to watch for traders and investors, as sentiment from the FED chairman Jerome Powell this week may affect the dollar significantly. However­, he has been quite vocal in the strength in the American economy. "In the long run and even in the medium run, you wouldn't want to bet against the American economy. The American economy will recover". However, he also voiced his doubts concerns, stating that "for the economy to recover.. that may have to await the arrival of a vaccine." This is on the back of President Donald Trump stating that the Fed chair was his "Most Improved player." The Fed has implemented deep cuts to the Fed funding rate, and a unlimited quantitative easing scheme extending to bond ETFs.

United Kingdom's Employment change and Inflation rate; Tuesday, May 19th and Wednesday, May 20th

The United Kingdom has one of the highest Coronavrius fatality rates in the world, currently sitting at aorund 14.3%. The government has pledged a fiscal package totaling $520 Billion, $50 Billion of which going towards employment relief. Analysts predict a 65,000 decrease in the number of people employed. This comes a day before the United Kingdom releases its Core Inflation Rate. With people being locked in their own homes, analysts predict a drop in the rate of inflation this week to 0.8%, down from 1.5% a month before.

Canada's Inflation Rate - Thursday, May 21st

With one of the countries not implementing a strict lockdown, Canada has done relatively well. Alongside the government's quick actions and Canadian residence adhering to a self-imposed lockdown, currently their fatality rate stands at 7.5%. Similarly to the UK, analysts predict a slight drop in the rate of inflation to -.1%, down from 0.9% a month before.