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'Kimono trader' advises short-term bets

Published Jan 23, 2009

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Japan's best-known retail currency trader, a housewife who made ¥800 million (R90.2 million at Friday's rates) on the dollar, euro and pound, says it may be a good year to buy the Australian dollar and Turkish lira even though markets are volatile.

Nicknamed the kimono trader by Japanese media, Yukiko Ikebe (61) has written a book called The secret of FX (see www.yukikov.net) outlining the key to her success in Japan's popular foreign exchange margin trading market.

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Ikebe is shy of showing her face, after a brush with tax authorities on her profits, but she lectures on forex investment and still trades a little - including scoring a big win when she closed many of her positions ahead of the Lehman Brothers collapse that roiled markets last year.

For years Japanese retail investors profited from investing in higher-yielding currencies abroad, but with world financial markets in crisis and the yen at 13-year highs versus the dollar, Ikebe warns that there is no such thing as easy money and investors must work hard not to get caught out.

"For now, I would recommend short-term trading because we cannot expect big price movement such as ¥10 to ¥20 moves this year," she said.

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"But it is a big year for creating long-term investment positions for the next five years because … technical analysis shows the economy is bottoming within this year or by January-February 2010."

Ikebe began margin trading in 2000 and often makes her moves before breakfast. She uses technical analysis to decide her strategy..

Margin trading lets investors borrow money to leverage small cash investments - and Japanese use low interest rates at home to multiply profits when investing offshore.

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Such investments have boomed since forex dealing was deregulated in 1998. A Bank of Japan report says that daily volume grew to ¥3.6 trillion by early last year, making up 14.5 percent of all yen trades around the world.

If a currency moves in the opposite direction to the bet, the trader has to pay a margin of the unrealised loss to keep the investment going, and Ikebe said she has learnt not to cling to losing bets.

She closed many of her positions last July, just before the collapse of Lehman Brothers sent markets into a tailspin, and her lecture tours mean she doesn't trade as much as before.

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Travelling to the countries of her prospective currency bets is also part of her strategy but these days she has little time. Nonetheless, the Australian dollar and the Turkish lira are her favourites right now and she is looking to buy them against the yen to hold for the next five years.

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