* Yen hits 20-month trough vs dollar, 8-1/2 month low vs
* Most expect BOJ to ease policy at this week's meeting
* Hefty short yen positioning may limit yen falls
By Jessica Mortimer
LONDON, Dec 17 The yen fell to its lowest in
more than a year and a half against the dollar on Monday after a
landslide election victory for Japan's Liberal Democratic Party,
which is committed to aggressive monetary easing.
The LDP's victory will bring former prime minister Shinzo
Abe back to power. Abe has called for "unlimited" monetary
easing, an increase in the inflation target and big spending on
public works to rescue the economy.
Analysts expect the prospect of ultra-loose monetary policy
to weaken the yen further in coming weeks, depending on the pace
of policy change. However, given that bets against the yen are
already hefty, losses could be limited.
The dollar was last up 0.3 percent on the day at 83.75 yen
, having earlier hit 84.48 yen, its strongest since April
2011. This left it with the potential to target the 200-week
moving average at 85.008 yen.
The LDP's massive victory will give the new government a
greater chance to push through policies and possibly appoint a
more dovish central bank chief next year. The LDP and its ally
the New Komeito party secured the two-thirds majority needed to
overrule parliament's upper house.
"The fact that the LDP secured a two-thirds majority gives
them a strong mandate and will lead to significant policy
changes," said Ian Stannard, head of European currency strategy
at Morgan Stanley.
"The yen weakening trend will be sustainable and dollar/yen
will move higher while euro/yen also has the potential to move
sharply higher." He said Morgan Stanley forecasts the dollar to
rise to 90-92 yen by the end of 2013, while the euro could rise
to 113 yen by the end of this year.
The euro jumped to around 111.30 yen, its highest
since late March. It eased back as some funds liquidated long
euro positions, leaving it last up 0.3 percent at 110.25 yen.
The Bank of Japan is scheduled to meet on Wednesday and
Thursday. It will most likely increase its asset-buying and
lending programme, currently at 91 trillion yen, by another 5-10
trillion yen, sources have said.
The euro's gains against the yen also helped it against the
dollar. It was last steady at $1.3160, having hit $1.3192
in Asia, its highest since early May.
Analysts said the dollar may be hampered by any signs of
trouble in U.S. talks to avert the "fiscal cliff" of $600
billion worth of tax increases and spending cuts due next month.
Latest data from the U.S. Treasury showed overseas demand
for U.S. assets was weak in October. Foreigners were net sellers
to the tune of $56.7 billion in October, the largest outflow
since July 2011.
HEFTY YEN SHORT BETS
Following the LDP's victory, the yen is likely to lose more
ground, although losses could be limited in the short term as
investors pare large short positions taken before the elections.
Data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission on Friday
showed speculators' bets against the yen were at their highest
in over five years. Investors had turned bearish on the yen in
anticipation of an LDP victory.
Some analysts warned the yen may be poised for a rebound as
Abe's actions could fall short of his tough talk, at least in
the short term, while the BOJ's easing steps are expected to
trail those of the U.S. Federal Reserve for now.
"We think the dollar has come too far and too strong in a
short period of time," said Marcus Hettinger, global currency
strategist at Credit Suisse, Zurich.
"Unless the Bank of Japan's policy is as expansionary as the
Fed's we could see some pullback in the dollar. But every dip in
the dollar is a buying opportunity and we expect dollar/yen to
touch 84.40 yen in one month."
Given some choppiness in the spot pair in the coming weeks,
strategists at Barclays recommended maintaining long positions
through three-month dollar/yen call options, due to the stronger
mandate for the BOJ to target higher inflation.
"Our estimates suggest a 10 percent multilateral nominal
(yen) depreciation would be needed to get a one-off inflation
boost of just 1.5 percent," they said in a note to clients.