January 6, 2024

According to statistics, USD/JPY (US Dollar/Japanese Yen) is among the top three most traded currency pairs in the Forex market. This is facilitated by the pair's high liquidity, which ensures narrow spreads and favourable trading conditions. This means that traders can enter and exit positions with minimal costs. Additionally, the pair exhibits very high volatility, providing excellent profit opportunities, particularly in short-term and medium-term operations.

USD/JPY: 2023 Review and 2024 Forecast1


2023: The Yen of Unfulfilled Hopes

● Throughout 2023, the Japanese currency steadily lost ground to the American dollar, and consequently, USD/JPY pair trended upwards. The yearly low was recorded on January 16th at 127.21, while the peak occurred on November 13th, with 1 dollar exchanging for 151.90 yen.

We have repeatedly mentioned that the weakening of the yen is due to the Bank of Japan's (BoJ) persistent ultra-dovish stance. Understandably, the negative interest rate of -0.1% cannot be attractive to market participants, especially against the backdrop of rising global yields and high rates set by the central banks of other leading countries. For investors, it was much more preferable to engage in carry trade: borrowing yen at low interest rates, then converting them to US dollars and Treasury bonds, which yielded a good profit due to the interest rate differential, all without any risk.

● The monetary policy conducted by the Japanese Government and the Bank of Japan in recent years clearly indicates that their priority is not the yen's exchange rate, but economic indicators. Until mid-summer, to combat rising prices, regulators in the US, EU, and the UK tightened monetary policy and raised key interest rates. However, the BoJ ignored such methods, even though inflation in the country continued to rise. In June 2023, core inflation reached 4.2%, the highest in over four years. The only action the Bank of Japan took was to switch from strict to flexible targeting of the yield curve of Japanese government bonds, which did not aid the national currency.

Instead of tangible actions, Japan's Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki, Bank of Japan Governor Kazuo Ueda, and Japan's top currency diplomat Masato Kanda actively engaged in verbal interventions. They and other senior financial officials consistently assured in their speeches that everything was under control. They claimed that the Government was "closely monitoring currency movements with a high sense of urgency and immediacy" and that it "would take appropriate measures against excessive currency movements, not ruling out any options." Here are a few quotes from Kazuo Ueda's speech: "Japan's economy is recovering at a moderate pace. […] Uncertainty regarding Japan's economy is very high. […] The rate of inflation growth is likely to decrease and then accelerate again. [But] overall, Japan's financial system maintains stability." In short, interpret it as you wish.

Winter-Spring 2023. At the beginning of the year, many market participants took the promises to "take immediate measures" quite seriously. They were hopeful for a rate hike, which had been stuck at a negative level since 2016. In January, economists at Danske Bank forecasted that following a rate increase, the USD/JPY pair would fall to 125.00 within three months. Analysts from the French Societe Generale pointed to the same target. Their colleagues from ANZ Bank did not rule out the possibility of the pair reaching around 124.00 by the end of 2023. According to BNP Paribas' projections, a tightening of monetary policy was expected to stimulate the repatriation of funds by Japanese investors, potentially leading the USD/JPY pair to fall to 121.00 by year's end. Economists from the international financial group Nordea anticipated it dropping below 120.00. Potential significant strengthening of the Japanese currency was also suggested by strategists from Japan's MUFG Bank and HSBC, the largest bank in the UK.

Summer 2023. As time passed, nothing significant occurred. Commerzbank, a German bank, stated that the yen is a complex currency to understand, possibly due to the BoJ's monetary policy. Kristalina Georgieva, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), subtly hinted that it "would be appropriate to bring more flexibility to the monetary policy of the Bank of Japan."

In the first half of the summer, market participants began to adjust their forecasts. Economists at Danske Bank now predicted the USD/JPY rate to be below 130.00 over a 6-12 month horizon. A similar forecast was made by strategists at BNP Paribas, projecting a level of 130.00 by the end of 2023 and 123.00 by the end of 2024. Societe Generale's July forecast also became more cautious. Analysing the pair's prospects, the bank's experts expected that the yield on 5-year U.S. Treasury bonds would fall to 2.66% within a year, allowing the pair to break below 130.00. If the yield on Japanese government bonds (JGB) remains at the current level, the pair might even drop to 125.00.

Wells Fargo's prediction, one of the 'big four' banks in the US, was considerably more modest, with its specialists targeting a USD/JPY rate of 136.00 by the end of 2023 and 129.00 by the end of 2024. MUFG Bank declared that the Bank of Japan might only decide on its first rate hike in the first half of 2024. Only then would a shift towards strengthening the yen occur. Regarding the recent change in yield curve control policy, MUFG believed it was insufficient by itself to trigger a recovery of the Japanese currency. Danske Bank stated that expecting any steps from the BoJ before the second half of 2024 was not advisable.

Autumn-Winter 2023. No one held any hope that the Bank of Japan (BoJ) would change its monetary policy before the end of the year. However, market participants started fearing that the weak yen might eventually mobilize Japanese officials to move from verbal interventions to actual actions.

The USD/JPY pair was eagerly racing towards the critical mark of 150.00. Market participants vividly remembered that in the fall of 2022, when the pair reached a 32-year high at 152.00, Japanese authorities initiated financial interventions. Adding fuel to the fire was a report by Reuters, stating that Japan's chief currency diplomat Masato Kanda had announced the banking authorities were considering intervention to end "speculative" movements.

Then, on October 3, as the quotes slightly exceeded the "magical" height of 150.00, reaching a peak of 150.15, what everyone had been anticipating for so long finally happened. In just a few minutes, the USD/JPY pair plummeted nearly 300 points, halting the slide at 147.28. Japan's Finance Minister, Shunichi Suzuki, refrained from commenting on the event. He vaguely stated that "there are numerous factors determining whether movements in the currency market are excessive." However, many market participants believed this to be a real currency intervention. Although, of course, one cannot rule out the mass automatic triggering of stop-orders at the breakthrough of the key level of 150.00, as such "black swan" events have been observed before.

● Whatever the case, the intervention did not significantly help the Japanese currency, and 40 days later, it was trading again above 150.00, at the level of 151.90. It was at this moment, on November 13, that the trend reversed, and the strengthening of the yen became consistent. This happened a couple of weeks after the peak in yields of the ten-year U.S. Treasury bonds when markets became convinced that their decline had become a trend. It's important to recall that there's traditionally an inverse correlation between these securities and the yen. If the yield on Treasuries rises, the yen falls against the dollar, and vice versa: if the yield on the securities falls, the yen strengthens.

The primary reason for the resurgence of the Japanese currency was growing expectations that the Bank of Japan (BoJ) would finally abandon its negative interest rate policy, possibly sooner than expected. Rumours suggested that regional banks in the country, lobbying for an abandonment of yield curve targeting policy, were exerting significant pressure on the regulator.

The yen also benefited from market confidence that the key interest rates of the Fed and the ECB had plateaued, with only a decrease expected thereafter. As a result of this divergence, it was anticipated that investors would unwind their carry trade strategy and reduce the yield spreads between Japanese government bonds and those of the U.S. and Eurozone. According to most analysts, all these factors were expected to bring capital back to the yen.

The fourth quarter's low was recorded on December 28 at 140.24, after which USD/JPY ended the year 2023 at a rate of 141.00.


2024 – 2028: Fresh Forecasts

● After three years of sharp decline, the yen's value might finally be turning around. This is the view held by market participants surveyed by Bloomberg. Overall, respondents expect the Japanese currency to strengthen next year, with the average forecast for USD/JPY pointing to a level of 135.00 by the end of 2024.

Several banks anticipate the pair trading within the range of 125.00-135.00 (Goldman Sachs at 130.00, Barclays at 135.00, UBS at 132.00, MUFG at 125.00). Currency strategists at HSBC believe the US dollar is currently overvalued and will return to its fair value over the next five years due to declining yields in the US and rising stock markets. HSBC experts expect the exchange rate of the pair to reach 120.00 by mid-2024 and drop to 108.00 by 2028. According to ING Group's forecasts, the rate will fall to around 120.00 only in 2025.

However, there are also those who predict further decline for the Japanese currency and a continued 'flight to the moon' for the pair. For instance, analysts at the Economic Forecasting Agency (EFA) expect USD/JPY to reach 166.00 by the end of 2024, 185.00 by the end of 2025, and 188.00 by the end of 2026. Wallet Investor's forecast suggests that the pair will continue its upward rally, reaching a mark of 208.10 by 2028.

● In conclusion, for those who favour graphical analysis, it's noteworthy to mention that the behaviour of USD/JPY throughout 2023 almost perfectly aligns with Elliott Wave Theory. If in 2024 the pair continues to follow the tenets of this theory, we can first expect a bullish corrective wave B. This will be followed by a bearish impulse wave C, which could lead the pair to the levels anticipated by proponents of a strengthening Japanese currency.


NordFX Analytical Group


Notice: These materials are not investment recommendations or guidelines for working in financial markets and are intended for informational purposes only. Trading in financial markets is risky and can result in a complete loss of deposited funds.

« Market Analysis and News
New to the market? Make use of the “Getting Started” section. Start Training
Follow Us