Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

from MacroScope:

What can Kan do?

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Mixed reaction from major European banks to appointment of Naoto Kan as new Japanese finance minister. ING is pretty scathing, saying the appointment sidesteps a process of change Japan must undertake to avoid further stagnation or a fate far worse.

"PM Hatoyama has appointed someone with no experience in economic management... Mr. Kan takes on the finance minister role without a well documented, deeply considered policy agenda. Here we rely on reports of positions he has taken in the Cabinet, and from public statements on economic management. These suggest his instincts are to pursue a stimulus strategy involving higher government spending; a weaker yen and ultra-loose monetary policy. Mr. Kan appears tone deaf to microeconomic reform or to the threats to financial stability posed by high public debt."

The implication, ING says, confirms its worries about Japanese government bonds.

Kan's first big foray onto the stage in his new role, meanwhile, was to talk down the yen. He said many Japanese firms were in favour of dollar/yen around 95 yen, which is a weaker rate for the yen than recently. Barclays Capital found something positive in this.

from Summit Notebook:

The Esperanto currency

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Hiroshi Watanabe, president of the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, saw his share of dollar buying intervention during decades at the nation's finance ministry.  But the market veteran says despite prevalent talk recently, a shift away from the greenback as the world's reserve currency may be great in theory, but like the language of Esperanto short on daily practitioners.

"Esperanto is a very good language, but no community uses it in its daily life, " Watanabe told the Reuters Japan Investment Summit.

Whither the yen — a withering yen?

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The yen’s fall against the dollar the past few weeks has been remarkably fast, and calculated from where it is now around 97.70 yen, the dollar has jumped nearly 9 percent this month, on track for its biggest such gain since August 1995.

The yen surged last year as the worsening financial crisis forced investors to unwind risky carry trades – meaning they had to buy lots of yen – under the belief that Japan’s economy and banks were holding up through the storm.

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