In addition, Volatility has also fallen in the past two months, providing the stable conditions needed for a successful carry trade.
One dollar carry trade has involved buying Indonesian bonds. Foreign ownership of Indonesian bonds has risen to a record, while bond yields – which move inversely to prices – have fallen to record lows. Estimating the size of the dollar carry trade is an inexact science. Tim Lee at Pi Economics, a consultancy, says the dollar carry trade may now be worth more than $750 billion, approaching the size of the yen carry trade at its peak in 2004-07. A revival of the carry trade would put further downward pressure on the US currency. In the short term, though, the currency’s direction is likely to be determined by the Fed’s action on Tuesday, with traders saying anything short of a move to ease policy further is likely to disappoint the market.
Tomorrow’s US non-farm payrolls data, a closely watched set of jobs figures, will therefore assume even more importance than usual. Consensus forecasts are for a rise in the unemployment rate.
Some investors are speculating that Asian policymakers could support the dollar. The yen’s surge has strengthened the view in the markets that the authorities might react. Yoshihiko Noda, Japan’s finance minister, on Wednesday said the yen’s moves had been “somewhat one-sided”, adding that he was “closely watching market moves”.
But analysts and traders are not expecting the finance ministry to directly buy dollars to weaken the yen, a move it has not made since 2004 – not least because G7 countries have been encouraging exchange rate flexibility, especially in China.
Also, even though on a nominal level the yen is approaching highs it has not seen since 1995, on a real trade-weighted basis it is a different story.
BoJ data compiled by UBS show the real trade-weighted yen exchange rate is far lower than its early 1990s highs.
In the longer term, the success of the dollar carry trade will depend on the US economy remaining weak while the world around it continues to power ahead.
“It is a bit of a tightrope,” says Mr Lee. Any deviation from the current picture of stagnating growth in the US would cause the dollar carry trade to be unwound, pushing the greenback higher, he says. “If you’re a real bull and you think we’re just in the early stage of a recovery you have to assume interest rate rises are going to come sooner. But if we’re going back into severe recession, then we’ll go back into severe risk aversion and the carry trade will be unwound because everyone will be pulling in leverage.”
Mr Redeker at BNP Paribas says: “This is a summer market, this is a carry trade environment ... By autumn, it will be a perfect opportunity to bet against it.”