Japan has not been a sexy destination for investment. In an environment of rising sovereign risk, Japan’s huge debt burden (+200% and rising) and lack of triple-A rating (Japan is rated AA-, Aa3 and AA by the main rating agencies) are not something that would attract the world’s investors, including the powerful central bank reserve managers.
However, the yen is a different story. Enjoying a safe-haven status, the Japanese currency is staying just below its all-time high around 75.90 per dollar, while it also rose to an 11-year peak against the euro in January.
JP Morgan,whose asset management arm manages $70 billion for 65 official sector clients including central banks and sovereign wealth funds, says reserve managers have been diversifying into non-G4 currencies but the strategy has not performed well.
Instead, it says, they should buy more yen.
“Diversification has targeted cyclical assets such as commodity currencies, which impart more leverage than safety to a portfolio. A much higher allocation to structural funding currencies such as the yen is required for reserve managers concerned with volatility and drawdown,” JPM says in a note to clients.
According to the latest reserve data from the IMF, central banks — which control reserves of over $10 trillion worldwide — hold 60 percent in dollars, 27 percent in euros and 4 percent in sterling and yen respectively.