[TOKYO] A senior Japanese official on Thursday condemned the yen's rapid rise to a 17-month high versus the dollar, calling the ascent "one-sided", and threatening to intervene against it.
The dollar hit 109.36 yen, its weakest since late October 2014, after the minutes of the Federal Reserve's last monetary meeting confirmed the Fed's dovish take on future interest rate hikes.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's comment to the Wall Street Journal that countries should avoid seeking to weaken their currencies with "arbitrary intervention" fuelled speculation that Japan would not intervene to arrest the yen's rally. "It has been one-sided," the official told reporters when asked about the yen's recent gains. "We will take steps (in the market) if necessary," the official said on condition of anonymity.
It was the bluntest comment made so far by a finance ministry official. They have generally said in recent weeks that they were closely watching market moves. In Japan, the finance ministry has jurisdiction over currency policy.
Despite the verbal warning, however, the dollar hit a fresh 17-month low below 109.335 yen.
While global concerns over a currency war linger, Japan has stayed away from the markets since it last intervened in November 2011 to stem a strong yen.
The dollar last traded at around 109.60 yen on Thursday, still near its weakest in a year and a half, chilling exporter sentiment and weighing heavily on Japan's fight against deflation.