Yesterday the Bank of Japan, (BOJ), announced unprecedented steps, (for them), aimed explicitly at the creation of inflation, with a stated target of 2 per cent in two years. The new boys at the BOJ helm, (who were carefully hand-picked to ensure they would do this), used their first meeting to push through a raft of measures which more than sated even the market’s craving for action. This was heady stuff for central bankers, (especially Japanese ones, who for years have been notorious for under-delivery); they will aim to double the money supply to Yen 270 trn, (roughly USD 3 trn), in two years, almost doubling the amount of monthly bond purchases and lengthening the maximum permissible maturity to include 40-year bonds, increased the pace at which they will buy Exchange Traded Funds and Real Estate Investment Trusts, and even decided to ditch, (temporarily at first), its so-called ‘banknote’ rule, under which its total bond purchases were hitherto limited to the amount of Yen in circulation.
Not surprisingly these measures caused the yen to dive on the foreign exchange markets and Japanese 10-year government bond yields fell below 0.5 per cent. Only in Japan would investors be happy to buy these bonds, with that yield, 0.5 per cent per annum, when the government and the central bank is intent upon creating inflation of at least 2 per cent per annum-only in Japan because over 90 per cent of Japanese bond issuance is snapped up by domestic investors-individuals, pension funds, life insurance companies, government entities.
Will this continue happily forever? That depends on the degree of "success" which the BOJ’s policies enjoy. Japan Inc. had certainly better hope so, with interest rate payments already accounting for more than a quarter of government spending-even with interest rates at 0.5 per cent and lower for shorter maturities!
This is where gold should come into the picture - how can the world’s third largest economy embark on such an explicit inflationary policy without investors rushing to secure an inflation hedge by acquiring the age-old comfort of gold? One explanation is simply inertia; the market has endured nearly two decades of deflation in Japan and will take time to get worried about inflation there, secondly it will take time for Japanese liquidity to find its way into the global economy, but most importantly, the Cypriot and the North Korean crises loom large in investors’ minds and the only challenger to gold as a safe-haven is the US Dollar-hence an unstable equilibrium has formed with regard to the price of gold expressed in US Dollars.
If you believe that the Cypriot crisis will ultimately fade from memory and, pray God, North Korea is playing its old game of sabre-rattling to extort more aid, then someday soon gold will have its day and now is it great time to buy.