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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.

Run the numbers

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.

from Breakingviews:

Japan index: Trade gap, muted wages raise risks

By Andy Mukherjee

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

The Breakingviews Abenomics Index improved for the fourth straight month in December. But it masks two risks. A vanishing current account surplus means relying on foreigners to finance bloated public spending. Besides, struggling wage growth could stall private consumption.

from MacroScope:

ECB deflation risk denial has echoes of 2009

Euro zone policymakers like to talk. They often contradict each other at separate speaking engagements on the same day. But they have struck a chorus in recent weeks, asserting that deflation is not a threat.

Members of the ECB Governing Council have been particularly vocal, insisting they will not have to alter policy to counter falling prices.

from MacroScope:

Shock now clearly trumps transparency in central bank policymaking

The days of guided monetary policy, telegraphed by central banks and priced in by markets in advance, are probably coming to an end if recent decisions around the world are any guide.

From Turkey, which hiked its overnight lending rate by an astonishing 425 basis points in an emergency meeting on Tuesday, to India which delivered a surprise repo rate hike a day earlier, central banks are increasingly looking to "shock and awe" markets into submission with their policy decisions.

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