These are the personal views of Axel Merk, president and chief investment officer of Merk Investments, a currency-focused firm based in Palo Alto, Calif.:
Forget about the flight to the dollar at the peak of the financial crisis: the yen was the ultimate beneficiary. The endlessly quoted unwinding of the carry trade was a factor, but there may have been a more important force at play. As that force may now be under increased pressure, the yen may be in trouble. The force we are talking about is the free market.
How can market forces drive up the yen when Japan has been a leader in quantitative easing, the “art” of printing money? Japan epitomizes the battle between market and government forces. Left to its own powers, Japan’s economy would have imploded after its asset bubble burst in 1990. While painful, the good news about a deflationary collapse is that you can rebuild; a collapse is also a brutal way of weeding out those with too much debt. Instead, the government has, to varying degrees, been fighting market forces ever since. However, as of late, the Japanese have relaxed their attack on free market dynamics, in large part as a result of weak leadership.
Fighting market forces can be extremely expensive. If market forces ultimately win–i.e. the collapse ultimately happens–it’s possible for a country to destroy its currency along the way. Left to market forces, those with debt likely go broke. Left to policy makers, everyone may eventually go broke.