Two graphs (from Scott Barber) to remind that what you get from assets depends on the currency:
from Raw Japan:
The yen's fall against the dollar the past few weeks has been remarkably fast, and calculated from where it is now around 97.70 yen, the dollar has jumped nearly 9 percent this month, on track for its biggest such gain since August 1995.
The yen surged last year as the worsening financial crisis forced investors to unwind risky carry trades - meaning they had to buy lots of yen - under the belief that Japan's economy and banks were holding up through the storm.
Only last month, the yen hit an over-13-year high of 87.10 per dollar. So why has the Japanese currency fallen so fast?
All the G7 countries outside the euro zone now have interest rates of 1 percent or less, prompting some grumbling in various financial quarters that the European Central Bank is being particularly stubborn in keeping its rates at 2 percent.
Now comes an interesting take on this from JPMorgan Asset Management which suggests the gap may have more to do with egg on the face than monetary policy.
"There is a school of thought," it writes in a new note "that the ECB has been in a state of denial ever since it decided to raise rates last July. An organisational behaviourist would observe a desire to preserve 'face' in the deliberate way by which the central bank has reversed its previous tightening stance."
The periphery economies of the euro zone are suddenly in the spotlight. Credit rating agency Standard & Poor's has cut its outlook on Ireland's sovereign debt to negative. It worries that fiscal measures to recapitalise banks and boost the economy might not improve competitiveness, diversity and growth -- all making it harder to manage debt.
Next came Greece. S&P basically put the country on watch with a negative bias. The global financial crisis has increased the risk of a difficult and long-lasting struggle to keep the Greek economy on track, it said.
All this is a long, long way from the unravelling of the euro zone -- it just got a new member, Slovakia, after all. But the subject has been raised. Gary Dugan, chief investment officer of Merrill Lynch's wealth management arm, told a group of reporters in London recently that he expected political calls to quit the currency to be heard in some member countries as the global recession bites. He added that it wouldn't happen, but that the talk could weaken the euro.
Britons are not only having to contend with a pound falling to near parity with the euro and hitting multi-year lows against the dollar, they are also now being weighed down with change.
The country has long been one for coinage. The smallest note is for five pounds, which earlier this year was worth about $10 and is now around a mere $6.50. No equivalent of the paper dollar and hence lost of change.
Now, however, pockets are filling up with more pennies than usual, courtesy of one of Prime Minister Gordon Brown‘s economic stimulus plans. Brown cut 2.5 percent off value-added tax. So now a £3.50 film rental costs £3.41 and a $2.15 coffee is £2.09. Lots of increasingly worthless coppers floating around — unless of course deflation joins the party.
Merrill Lynch’s monthly poll of fund managers around the world has a bit of a surprise in the small print. More investors now reckon the Japanese yen is overvalued than see it as undervalued. This is the first time this has been the case since Merrill began asking the question, said by staff to be about eight years ago.
It clearly reflects a 13 percent dive in dollar/yen this year and a 24 percent plunge in euro/yen. But does the new view of value suggest that the unwinding of the carry trade is over? Another question from the Merrill poll shows hedge fund deleveraging levelling off.