The flurry of activity about a G7 currency statement yesterday can now be put in perspective. It will almost certainly happen but it’s very much going through the motions.
We’ve been saying for a while that having urged it to reflate its economy for some time, Japan’s partners could hardly complain now that it is. Lael Brainard of the U.S. Treasury basically let that cat out of the bag last night, warning against competitive devaluations but saying that Washington supported Tokyo’s efforts to reinvigorate growth and end deflation.
What we’ll get is a bland recommitment to market-determined exchange rates and not much more.
So Japan is off the hook whatever the grumblings in Europe and will not face any serious brickbats at a meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bankers at the end of the week. France is grumbler in chief on this but has secured precious little support from its EU partners, most notably Germany which has already rejected President Francois Hollande’s call for a medium-term target to be set for the euro.
The European Central Bank is ill-equipped to weaken the euro even if it wanted to. The world’s top central banks are expanding their balance sheets, or at least not reversing course, while the ECB’s balance sheet is tightening, partly due to banks paying back early cheap money the central bank doled out last year. And of course with the Federal Reserve printing money furiously, Washington is not in much of a position to criticize the Bank of Japan for doing the same.