Speculation that the Bank of Japan could effectively start paying banks to borrow its cash caused the yen to tumble on Friday and gave government bonds a lift after a second bruising week in a row.
Disappointing earnings reports from some of the world’s biggest tech companies and fresh emission-test troubles for Europe’s auto makers meant a low-key day at the end of a positive week for the world’s main stock markets.
Wall Street, which is back near record highs, was set to reopen virtually flat. Traders were looking over General Electric and Honeywell earnings and waiting on manufacturing data, after lacklustre numbers from Google’s parent wiped $32 billion off its value on Thursday.
Euro zone business data earlier had showed an unexpected slowdown in April. Meanwhile, the bloc’s finance chiefs met in Amsterdam to discuss whether Greece was making the necessary progress. The head of the International Monetary Fund said it wasn’t.
The big market move come from Japan though. A Bloomberg report that the central bank might go further with negative interest rates caused the yen to fall more than 1 percent, to 110.34 yen per dollar and 124.93 to the euro.
The Bank of Japan, which meets next week, has two lending facilities. One offers banks zero-interest funding for loans to companies in high-growth industries and one provides zero-interest long-term funds to banks that increase lending more generally.
The BOJ would consider applying negative rates on both facilities, Bloomberg reported – paying commercial banks to accept funding.
“That puts a different light on the BOJ meeting and suggests they might be more creative than the markets had given them credit for,” said Rabobank FX strategist Jane Foley. “Clearly we have seen the yen suffer on the back of that.”
The Federal Reserve also meets next week. Healthy markets and reassuring data over the past month have left many investors wondering whether they might have been too quick in pricing out an increase in U.S. rates this year.
Manufacturing purchasing manager data in the U.S. due at 1345 GMT will provide the latest fodder for that debate after a rebound in ISM figures this week.
German Bund and U.S. Treasury yields were on course for weekly gains, although they slipped on Friday in reaction to the BOJ talk.
The bond market has also been tracking oil prices because of their impact on inflation, and crude is up by more than two-thirds from its $27 a barrel low in January
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