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from Anatole Kaletsky:

The radical force of ‘Abenomics’

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the cockpit of T-4 training jet at the Japan Air Self-Defense Force base in Higashimatsushima, Miyagi prefecture, May 12, 2013. REUTERS/Kyodo

'The 3.5 percent gross domestic product growth announced by Tokyo Wednesday suggests that Japan may be the fastest-growing economy in the G7. Since the Tokyo stock market hit bottom exactly six months ago, the Nikkei share index has soared almost 80 percent. Meanwhile, the yen has experienced its biggest six-month move against the dollar. All these events appear linked to the election of Shinzo Abe and the regime he has installed at the Bank of Japan.

Even after 20 years of stagnation, Japan remains the world’s third-largest economy, with a 2012 GDP of $6 trillion, equal to France, Italy and Spain combined. Financiers, business leaders and economists everywhere are starting to ask the obvious question: Is Japan finally taking the truly radical action required to fix its economy and end its “lost decades”?

This, however, is the wrong question. It confounds two very different issues – which need to be carefully distinguished to understand what’s happening in Japan.

from Global Investing:

Weekly Radar: Draghi returns to London

ECB chief Mario Draghi returns to London next week almost 10 months on from his seminal “whatever it takes” speech to the global financial community in The City  – a speech that not only drew a line under the euro financial crisis by flagging the ECB’s sovereign debt backstop OMT but one that framed the determination of the G4 central banks at large to reflate their economies via extraordinary monetary easing. Since then we’ve seen the Fed effectively commit to buying an addition trillion dollars of bonds this year to get the U.S. jobless rate down toward 6.5%, followed by the ‘shock-and-awe’ tactics of the new Japanese government and Bank of Japan to end decades.

And as Draghi returns 10 months on, there's little doubt that he and his U.S. and Japanese peers have succeeded in convincing financial investors of central bank doggedness at least. Don't fight the Fed and all that - or more pertinently, Don't fight the Fed/BoJ/ECB/BoE/SNB etc... G4 stock markets are surging ever higher through the Spring of 2013 even as global economic data bumbles along disappointingly through its by now annual ‘soft patch’.  Looking at the number tallies, total returns for Spanish and Greek equities and euro zone bank stocks are up between 40 and 50% since Draghi's showstopper last July . Italian, French and German equities and Spanish and Irish 10-year government bonds have all returned about 30% or more. And you can add 7% on to all that if you happened to be a Boston-based investor due to a windfall from the net jump in the euro/dollar exchange rate. What’s more all of those have outperformed the 25% gains in Wall St’s S&P 500 since then, even though the latter is powering to uncharted record highs. And of course all pale in comparison with the eye-popping 75% rise in Japan’s Nikkei 225 in just six months!! Gold, metals and oil are all net losers and this is significant in a money-printing story where no one seems to see higher inflation anymore.

from Breakingviews:

Japan’s yield spike is no canary in the debt mine

By Andy Mukherjee

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

The recent spike in Japan’s bond yields is not a canary in the country’s debt mine. Though the yield on 10-year government bonds has almost doubled since the Bank of Japan announced its aggressive money-printing pledge on April 4, it’s still less than 0.9 percent. Before the 2008 financial crisis, yields were twice as high.

from Breakingviews:

Dan Loeb‘s breakup plan deserves Sony’s ear

By Peter Thal Larsen

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

Dan Loeb is taking Japan’s economic renaissance at face value: the hedge fund manager wants Sony to spin off its entertainment arm. Though activists rarely prevail in Japan, Loeb’s idea may have merits. The electronics giant should take him seriously.

from Breakingviews:

Abenomics pulls Japan from its post-Lehman slump

By Andy Mukherjee

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

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s policies have beaten back the Japanese economy’s post-Lehman blues. Breakingviews' Abenomics Index was at its highest level in March since September 2008. And that was before the Bank of Japan launched its bold money-printing pledge.

from Breakingviews:

Three-digit yen no longer a one-way bet

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

The yen is no longer a one-way bet. The Japanese currency has slumped to 100 against the dollar for the first time in four years. That’s a 16 percent slide since Shinzo Abe’s landslide election victory in December. At the time, Breakingviews predicted his victory would herald a three-digit yen. But there are good reasons to be sceptical about a further decline.

from Breakingviews:

Ailing South Korea needs monetary remedy

By Andy Mukherjee

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

The Bank of Korea is making a big mistake by not cutting interest rates more aggressively. A weaker Japanese yen and tepid global demand are squeezing the country’s exporters from Hyundai Motor to steelmaker Posco. Though demand from China is still growing, shipments to Europe are falling, while those to the United States have stalled (See graphic).

from Global Investing:

Japan’s big-money investors still sitting tight

More on the subject of Japanese overseas investment.

As we said here and here, Japanese cash outflows to world markets have so far been limited to a trickle, almost all from retail mom-and-pop investors who like higher yields and are estimated to have 1500 trillion yen ($15.40 trillion) in savings. As for Japan's huge institutional investors -- the $730 billion mutual fund industry and $3.4 trillion life insurance sectors -- they are sitting tight.

If some are to be believed, the hype over outflows is misguided. Morgan Stanley for one reckons Japanese insurers' foreign bond buying may rise by just 2-3 percent in the next two years, amounting to $60-100 billion. Pension funds are even less likely to re-balance their portfolios given large cash flow needs, the bank said.

from Global Investing:

Show us the (Japanese) money

Where is the Japanese money? Mostly it has been heading back to home shores as we wrote here yesterday.

The assumption was that the Bank of Japan's huge money-printing campaign would push Japanese retail and institutional investors out in search of yield.  Emerging markets were expected to capture at least part of a potentially huge outflow from Japan and also benefit from rising allocations from other international funds as a result.  But almost a month after the BOJ announced its plans, the cash has not yet arrived.

from Global Investing:

Tokyo Sonata calls the tune for investors

The jury may be out on whether Messrs. Abe and Kuroda will succeed in cajoling the Japanese economy from its decades-long funk but the cash is betting they will. Domestic and foreign investors have stampeded for Tokyo equities, and Morgan Stanley has been crunching the numbers.

Since 2005, Japanese investors built up a 14 trillion yen (over $140 billion) portfolio of foreign equities. But between January-March 2013, they offloaded a third of this -- about $39 billion.  Going back to July 2012 when they first started bringing cash home, the Japanese have sold $53 billion in foreign equities, or 36 percent of equity holdings.

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