BOJ to stick to playbook in fighting excessive yield falls
The Bank of Japan will stick to its playbook of minor tweaks and verbal warnings to rein in sharp falls in long-term interest rates, sources say, raising questions about its ability to control the yield curve while managing market expectations.
The key 10-year Japanese government bond (JGB) yield spiked on Tuesday after a poorly-received auction, a sign markets were finally paying heed to BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda’s recent comments warning against excessive falls in super-long yields.
In the last month the BOJ has repeatedly signaled its displeasure over what it saw as excessive declines in super-long yields and a flattening yield curve.
It has also reduced its bond purchasing plans for most maturities and signaled it could forgo operations to buy bonds with a maturity of over 25 years.
Such efforts have given rise to market views the BOJ is serious about steepening the yield curve, even if such attempts risk being interpreted as a withdrawal of monetary stimulus.
“Market players realized the BOJ had a strong desire to prevent the yield curve from flattening,” said Mari Iwashita, chief market economist at Daiwa Securities.
“The BOJ is using verbal signals skillfully and controlling the yield curve fairly well these days,” she said.
Japanese finance and central bank officials took Tuesday’s price action in stride, describing it as a one-off move rather than the start of a full-fledged uptrend in yields.
“It’s true the moves were a bit volatile,” one of the officials said on condition of anonymity. “It would be problematic if yields test the upper limit of the BOJ’s target range. Judging from recent moves, that’s unlikely to happen.”
The 10-year bond yield briefly jumped 6.5 basis points to -0.160 percent on Tuesday, before pulling back to -0.165 percent on Wednesday.
Under its yield curve control (YCC) policy, the BOJ pledges to guide short-term rates at -0.1 percent and the 10-year yield around 0 percent.
The policy is aimed not only at keeping borrowing costs ultra-low, but at preventing excessive falls in long-term yields that would strain financial institutions’ margin.
Global economic uncertainties, however, have repeatedly pushed the 10-year yield below the -0.2 percent level, seen by markets as the BOJ’s line in the sand. That has dragged on super-long yields.
BOJ officials concede that putting a floor under rates is tougher than capping them as it requires trimming bond buying, a move that could be seen as a withdrawal of stimulus and trigger an unwelcome rise in the yen.
Still, the BOJ will likely rely on verbal jawboning and market operations to rein in sharp yield falls for now, rather than take bolder steps such as an overhaul of its policy framework, say sources familiar with its thinking.