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from Breakingviews:

Japan’s GDP sacrifice is price well paid

By Andy Mukherjee 

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Japan’s GDP sacrifice is a fair price for much-needed fiscal correction.

The country’s output plunged an annualized 6.8 percent in the second quarter from the previous three months, according to the Cabinet Office’s preliminary reading. The decline, which stock market investors had expected and therefore largely ignored, was a direct consequence of the April 1 hike in Japan’s sales tax, the first since 1997. Raising the levy by 3 percentage points prompted households to curb spending by a massive 19 percent.

But for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, taking a temporary hit on private demand is an acceptable cost of mending the nation’s public finances. The government’s debt load, which the International Monetary Fund says will rise to 245 percent of GDP by 2019, makes it crucial for Abe to press on with fiscal correction.

Abe has the scope to go beyond a scheduled second increase in the sales tax next year. That’s because austerity in Japan is unlikely to be the kind of self-defeating exercise that it has proved to be in Europe. For one, even though real output took a big hit, prices of everything rose a little bit because of the additional levy; nominal GDP barely fell in the second quarter. In other words, fiscal retrenchment is unlikely to worsen the government’s debt-to-GDP ratio.

from Breakingviews:

Japan’s bond-hugging banks are pinning Abe down

By Andy Mukherjee

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Japanese lenders’ outsized government bond holdings have Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a chokehold. Unless banks shed the load now, they might try to dump the debt when the Bank of Japan stops printing money and causes bond prices to fall. A stampede could rattle the financial system and dent Abe’s anti-deflation campaign.

from Breakingviews:

Japan’s corporate tax cut could harm Abenomics

By Andy Mukherjee

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Shinzo Abe wants to prove his reform credentials by cutting Japan’s 36 percent corporate tax rate. But the prime minister’s plan could backfire and end up harming his anti-deflation campaign.

from Ian Bremmer:

Japan’s path forward, in five steps

japan888

On the surface, Barack Obama’s recent Japan visit struck all the right chords for Tokyo. For the first time ever, an American president stated that the U.S.-Japan security treaty extends to the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands dispute, the most combustible geopolitical conflict between Japan and China. And Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a “key milestone” for negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the trade deal that encompasses 12 countries and more than 40 percent of the world’s economic output.

But there was less to the visit than meets the eye. Obama’s Senkaku pledge was a restatement of existing U.S. policy. The “key milestone” on TPP was never identified; in fact, it seems that the 40 hours of bilateral discussions between the U.S. and Japan led to no breakthrough at all. And while the trip was a big win for Obama -- he managed to placate Tokyo without provoking Beijing -- it didn’t offer any solutions for how Japan should deal with a rising China.

from Breakingviews:

Japan index: Economy is ready to take on tax hike

By Andy Mukherjee

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The Breakingviews Abenomics Index climbed to a six-year high in February, suggesting the economy has enough strength to withstand this month’s sales tax increase. Wages and inflation expectations firmed up, while hopes of further monetary easing pushed bond yields lower.

from Breakingviews:

Triple defence will shield Japan from tax burden

By Andy Mukherjee

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

If history is a reliable guide, the Japanese economy will wilt when the country raises its sales tax on April 1. When Japan last increased the levy in 1997, consumer spending collapsed. But the three-pronged defence Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is putting in place makes a repeat doubtful.

from Breakingviews:

Japan stock market selloff is a temporary setback

By Peter Thal Larsen

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Japan’s stock market has suffered a temporary setback. The country’s equity indices have dropped more than 10 percent this year in local currency terms. With the central bank on standby for more easing, however, Japanese stocks should benefit from home support.

from Anatole Kaletsky:

Japan as the crisis next time

Which major economy is most likely to disappoint expectations this year, and perhaps even cause a financial crisis big enough to break the momentum of global economic recovery? The usual suspects are China and southern Europe. But in my view the most likely culprit will be Japan.

While Japan no longer attracts much attention these days, it is still the world’s third-largest economy, with a gross domestic product equal to France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal combined. Its industries still pose the main competitive challenge to U.S., European and Korean manufacturers, and its regional weight is still sufficient to trigger financial crises across the whole of Asia -- as it did in 1997.

from Breakingviews:

Japan index: Abenomics momentum masks weakness

By Andy Mukherjee

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

A second straight gain in October pushed the Breakingviews Abenomics index to its highest since the 2008 crisis. But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe must worry about the durability of the recovery. Wage gains aren’t yet large enough to compensate households for rising prices.

from Anatole Kaletsky:

After initial promise, Japan’s new economy risks backsliding

At a time when economic optimism is growing and stock markets are hitting new highs almost daily, it is worth asking what could go wrong for the global economy in the year or two ahead. The standard response, now that a war with Iran or a euro breakup is off the agenda, is that some kind of new financial bubble could be about to burst in the U.S. But a very different, and rather more plausible, threat is looming on the other side of the world.

Japan is the world’s third-biggest economy, with national output roughly equal to France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece combined. This year, Japan has become, very unusually, a leader in terms of financial prosperity and economic growth. According to the latest IMF forecasts, Japan’s 2 percent growth rate in 2013 will be the fastest among the G7 countries, easily outpacing the next strongest economies, Canada and the U.S., each with 1.6 percent growth. Japan’s stock market has gained 70 percent since last December, far exceeding the 25 percent bull market on Wall Street, and Japan’s corporate profits are projected to increase by 17 percent, according to Consensus Economics, compared with the paltry gains of 3 to 4 percent in Germany and the U.S.

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