Felix Salmon

When the finance minister targets stock prices

Japan’s economy has been far too stagnant for far too long: everybody can agree on that. The aging population, now used to deflation, prefers saving to spending — an entirely reasonable stance if prices will be lower tomorrow than they are today. So the government has long been facing a very tough task: to change the psychology of a nation, basically. You can’t do that — as Japan learned the hard way — with old-fashioned public-works spending. Instead, you have to target expectations.

The problem of Japan’s household savings

Almost two years ago, in September 2010, the Japanese currency reached an all-time high of just 83 yen to the dollar. The Bank of Japan, shocked into action, brought out the big guns: a massive intervention in the fx market, which immediately sent the currency down more than 3%. And I responded with a blog post headlined “Why Japan’s FX intervention might actually work”: the intervention was unsterilized, which meant that the Bank of Japan was essentially printing money. If a central bank prints enough money, the currency will, eventually, fall.