Within the OECD are annual inflation has been rising at an average of 9.6% – its ranges from 2.5% in Japan to 73.5% in Turkey. The US and the UK has inflation of 9.1%, Australia 6.3% and NZ 7.3%. Most of the bigger economies target a 2% inflation rate and in response to these higher rates the US Fed increased its interest rates by 75 basis points to 1.5-1.75% with a potential 50 or 75 basis point rise in July. The Reserve Bank of Australia also lifted its interest rate by 50 basis points to 1.35% in July.
In order to tackle this inflationary pressure it is normal for central banks to sell bonds / assets back into the market which is turn reduces the money supply and raises interest rates. This should depress aggregate demand as there is now less money in the circular flow and the cost of borrowing goes up. However, the Bank of Japan (BoJ) is out of kilter with accelerating interest rates as it has committed to its policy of yield curve control intended to keep yields on 10-year bonds below 0.25% by buying as much public debt as is required – see graph below:
How to Bond Yields work?
Say market interest rates are 10% and the government issue a bond and agree to pay 10% on a $1000 bond = annual return of $100.
100/1000 = 10%
If the central bank increase interest rates to 12% the previous bond is bad value for money as it pays $100 as compared to $120 with the a new bond. The value of the new bond is effectively reduced to $833 as in order to give it annual payment of $100 a year the price would have to be $833 to it a market based return.
100/833 = 12%
Yield curve control
Yield curve control (YCC) involves the BOJ targeting a longer-term interest rate by buying as many bonds as necessary to hit that rate target. It has been buying Japanese Government Bonds (JGB) at a monthly rate of ¥20trn which is double its previous peak of bond buying in 2016. Although there is no theoretical limit on its buying ability it has impacted the currency which has fallen to a 24 year low against the US dollar. This will push up the price of imports and inflation although the BOJ is confident that the price rises in its economy are transitory. If inflation does start to consistently hit levels above the BOJ’s target of 2% will they reverse their bond purchasing policy and shift to a higher yield cap?
A lot of investment banks are looking to short JGB’s. In this situation the trader suspects that bond prices will fall, and wishes to take advantage of that bearish sentiment—for instance, if interest rates are expected to rise. This will likely happen if the Japanese relax their YCC with interest rates rising and bond prices falling – see image below for a simple explanation of shorting.
- The Economist: – BoJ v the markets. June 25th 2022.
- Financial Times: Investors crank up bets on BoJ surrendering yield curve controls. June 23rd 2022
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