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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.

After last year’s Abenomics-inspired rally, investors were always likely to pause for breath. But the correction has been more dramatic than many expected. The Topix index is down almost 11 percent so far this year, while the Nikkei 225 benchmark has dropped almost 12 percent in Japanese yen terms. That’s worse than every other major stock market except Russia.

The latest casualty is Japan Display, the smartphone screen maker which has just completed an initial public offering (IPO). Its shares fell 16 percent below their IPO price on the first day of trading on March 19.

from MacroScope:

Putin welcomes Crimea in

Vladimir Putin has told Russia’s Duma that he has approved a draft treaty to bring Ukraine’s Crimea region into Russia and in doing so continues to turn a deaf ear to the West’s sanctions-backed plea to come to the negotiating table.

Overnight, Japan added its weight to the sanctions drive, suspending talks with Moscow on an investment pact and relaxation of visa requirements. EU and U.S. measures have targeted a relatively small number of Russians and Ukrainians but presumably there is scope to go considerably further, particularly if Putin decided to move into eastern Ukraine too.

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: Weak demand shows need for stimulus

By Andy Mukherjee

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

The Breakingviews Abenomics Index inched higher in January. But manufacturing stumbled, and the trade deficit zoomed, suggesting anaemic demand both at home and abroad. With wages subdued and sales taxes about to rise, the economy may need a fresh dose of monetary easing.

from Photographers' Blog:

Fukushima’s children

Fukushima Prefecture, Japan

By Toru Hanai

It will soon be the third anniversary of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami that wrecked the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

I myself live in Tokyo, more than a three-hour drive away. Right after the disaster, I too bought bottled water both to drink and to use around the house. Now, however, I drink from the tap without thinking about it.

from Breakingviews:

Japan pension debate goes beyond bonds and stocks

By Andy Mukherjee

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

Japan’s pension reform debate is heating up. But it’s in danger of missing the wood for the trees.

from Breakingviews:

SoftBank’s Alibaba stake both blessing and burden

By Una Galani

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

SoftBank’s investment in Alibaba must be one of the most successful of all time. Billionaire chief Masayoshi Son injected just $20 million into the Chinese e-commerce giant in 2000. Today, the 36.7 percent shareholding accounts for a large chunk of Japanese group’s market value. As Alibaba heads toward an initial public offering, however, Son’s investment blessing may become a burden.

from Breakingviews:

Japan bond investors’ overseas trip may flop again

By Andy Mukherjee 

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

Japanese bond investors’ latest overseas trip might flop, just like last summer’s foray. That’s bad news for the investors and for Tokyo’s anti-deflation campaign.

from MacroScope:

Japan-style deflation in Europe getting harder to dismiss

To most people, the idea of falling prices sounds like a good thing. But it poses serious economic and financial risks - just ask the Japanese, who only now finally have the upper hand in a 20-year battle to drag their economy out of deflation.

That front is shifting westward, to the euro zone.

Deflation tempts consumers to postpone spending and businesses to delay investment because they expect prices to be lower in the future. This slows growth and puts upward pressure on unemployment. It also increases the real debt burden of debtors, from consumers to companies to governments.

from Ian Bremmer:

Is the China-Japan relationship ‘at its worst’?

At the Munich Security Conference last month, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying said the China-Japan relationship is “at its worst.” But that’s not the most colorful statement explaining, and contributing to, China-Japan tensions of late.

At Davos, a member of the Chinese delegation referred to Shinzo Abe and Kim Jong Un as “troublemakers,” lumping the Japanese prime minister together with the volatile young leader of a regime shunned by the international community. Abe, in turn, painted China as militaristic and overly aggressive, explaining how -- like Germany and Britain on the cusp of World War One -- China and Japan are economically integrated, but strategically divorced. Even J.K. Rowling has played her part in recent weeks, with China’s and Japan’s ambassadors to Britain each referring to the other country as a villain from Harry Potter.

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