Japanese companies believe that neither U.S. President Donald Trump nor Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe want to see the yen weaken significantly, a Reuters poll showed, a development they worry could spark an unwelcome political backlash.
The Reuters Corporate Survey, conducted Jan. 4-17, also found that Japanese firms want Abe to push Trump hard on trade issues, while nearly a third cited national security concerns as the most pressing issue Abe should bring up with the new president.
The latest survey highlights caution over how U.S. policy will develop under Trump, who was sworn in as president on Friday, with his protectionist agenda casting a cloud over the outlook on global trade.
Trump has complained that the dollar’s strength is hurting trade relations with China. He has also vowed to make sweeping changes to U.S. trade policy and protect American jobs, threatening to levy punitive tariffs on Chinese imports and renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada.
The monthly poll of 531 big and mid-sized companies found that 73 percent said that Trump would not tolerate the dollar rising beyond 120 yen, and 90 percent saw 125 yen as a red line.
“I think the U.S. will try to arrest excessive strength in the dollar in order to promote protectionism,” wrote a manager at a machinery company.
Managers answered on condition of anonymity in the survey, which was conducted for Reuters by Nikkei Research. Around 240 answered questions on Trump.
The dollar surged at the end of last year on expectations that fiscal stimulus proposed by Trump would boost growth and inflation and lead to accelerated U.S. interest rate hikes.
But the greenback fell to six-week lows against major currencies last week after Trump complained about dollar strength. He has criticized Japan as well as China and Mexico for running trade surpluses with the United States.
“Given the irregularity of Trump’s remarks, many companies seem to worry about when a weaker yen becomes the target of his criticism,” said Hidenobu Tokuda, senior economist at Mizuho Research Institute, who reviewed the survey results.