In 2008’s flight-to-safety, many exchange traded fund (ETF) investors went to U.S. treasuries, the U.S. dollar and the Japanese yen.

So far in 2009, the U.S. dollar (to the surprise of many) and gold have reigned supreme, with investors flocking to them as safe havens during these tough economic times.

Gary Gordon for ETF Expert says that the Japanese yen, however, is down more than 10% since it peaked mid-December of last year; the yen has actually fallen below the levels seen at the height of credit anxiety during the October and November low points.

The Japanese yen used to be associated with risk aversion, and now it appears to be struggling. The answer for why is in the hands of the locals; The global recession and the strengthening of Japan’s currency has made it terribly difficult for its multinationals to sell products to the world. And Japan’s famous frugality is further weighing on the economy. The weaker the yen is, the better Japan’s exports do. The leaders in Japan have been purposely weakening the yen.

So far, though, the weakening yen hasn’t resulted in a boom for the iShares MSCI Japan (EWJ), which itself is down 13.5% in the last month. But this could be because investors remain spooked by the health of Japan’s largest companies and the overall economy.

Today, the yen fell to a three-month low against the dollar. The economy in Japan is reliant upon exporting goods such as cars and flat-screen panel televisions. Much of the fear is from the Japanese themselves – they’re taking their currency overseas and spending it, reports Scott Tong for Marketplace.

  • CurrencyShares Japanese Yen Trust (FXY): down 2.3% over three months; down 3.8% in the last week

  • iShares MSCI Japan Index (EWJ) down 13.6% over three months; down 5.5% over one week

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Mr. Lydon serves as an independent trustee of certain mutual funds and ETFs that are managed by Guggenheim Investments; however, any opinions or forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Mr. Lydon and not those of Guggenheim Funds, Guggenheim Investments, Guggenheim Specialized Products, LLC or any of their affiliates. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.