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Time to Sell Yen: Strategist

Japanese Flag
Photo: Bryan Jones
Japanese Flag

Although global risk appetite is set to improve, the sun has yet to rise on the yen, according to one strategist.

Boy, that euro zone crisis just won't quit. Spanish and Italian bond yields are ticking up again after a few days of improvement, and investors are still puzzling over what the European Central Bank (explain this)might do to fix the mess.

For Jens Nordvig, though, one thing is perfectly clear. Nordvig, global head of G10 FX strategy for Nomura Securities, thinks the steps toward crisis resolution and the diminishing odds of full-blown European disaster mean risk premiums — the amount investors demand to hold riskier assets —are set to fall. And that, he says in a note to clients, means it's time to sell the ultimate safe haven currency.

"We think the current environment offers the second opportunity in 2012 for yen crosses to trade higher," he said, speaking about how the Japanese currency performed against units other than the U.S. dollar.

In other words: when investors' risk appetite improved in the first quarter, there were profits to be had selling the yen against risk-sensitive currencies, Nordvig said. He sees that happening again, with stocks rallying and both the ECB and the Fed expected to unleash a wave of bond-buying to spur economic activity.

What, exactly, is he recommending? Nordvig thinks selling the yen and buying either the British pound or the Mexican peso is a good idea. Interest rates are so low in Britain that any more quantitative easing(explain this)isn't likely to weigh on the pound, he says, and the peso is particularly sensitive to shifts in risk appetite, often rising sharply when risk tolerance improves.

Nordvig cautions that the current levels for either trade are less than perfect, so he suggests initiating a moderately sized trade, adding on if the pound or peso sell off.

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