So far in 2016, yes.
From Deutsche’s latest House View:
Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said he is not thinking of adopting a negative interest rate policy now, signalling that any further monetary easing will likely take the form of an expansion of its current massive asset-buying programme.
- Reuters, Jan 21
The Bank of Japan has adopted negative interest rates in their first benchmark rate move in five years, but has also chosen not to expand its quantitative and qualitative easing programme beyond its current level of buying Y80tn assets a year.
The BoJ has adopted a benchmark rate of -0.1 per cent, from a previous level of 0.1 per cent. It is the first time they have moved interest rates since October 2010….
The BoJ also indicated it has not ruled out further imminent easing, saying “it] will cut the interest rate further into negative territory if judged as necessary.”
Wait, what? Read more
As has been well reported, the IMF has recommended that China’s renminbi should join the basket of currencies used to value its own de facto currency.
There’s been lots of talk, as a consequence, of China now being in a position to properly disrupt the US dollar’s global reserve currency status.
Except, SDR inclusion doesn’t imply anything of the sort.
Furthermore, we’ve very much been here before*. Read more
A brief history of Japan’s stock market, charted by Nomura. Do click to enlarge/ to spot the bubbles:
Jeff Megall: Do you know what time it is in Tokyo, Nick?
Nick Naylor: No.
Jeff Megall: 4 pm tomorrow. It’s the future, Nick.
–Thank You For Smoking (film)
Back when Japan first entered the world of zero inflation and zero interest rates, many Western economists and policymakers thought it was a freak event never to be experienced in their own countries.
But it turned out Jeff Megall was right: far from being unusual, Japan was simply further along in the process of debt-fueled boom and slow deleveraging. Hence the attention paid to Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s efforts over the past two-and-a-half years or so to boost growth, particularly the ambitious programme of monetary stimulus called Quantitative and Qualitative Easing. Read more
This, apparently, is a favoured way to short Japanese equities, and trading in said ETF, the Nikkei Double Inverse, has been particularly brisk of late. Meaning a lot of speculative money was caught on the hop on Wednesday…
Consider the following two charts:
The chart on the right shows the price changes of the Shanghai composite stock index since the beginning of 2014 and the one on the left shows the price changes of a different stock index, decades earlier, that appears to have behaved very similarly, albeit with a bigger boom over a slightly longer time frame. We removed the labels and time scales to heighten their similarities, and normalised both to start at 100.
In both cases there was a period when basically nothing happened to stocks, followed by an extreme appreciation, followed by a sharp drawdown of about one-third.
Rightly or wrongly, falling consumer prices — or even plain old price stability — is often treated with alarm by monetary economists and policymakers alike. The common view is that deflation, in addition to exacerbating economic weakness, is an indicator of the economy’s failing vigour.
About 20 years ago or so, it started becoming fashionable to conclude that the Japanese government’s borrowing costs were going to go up a lot.
Demographic changes were going to dramatically increase the share of retirees dependent on the state for income and healthcare at the same time as the working population — and therefore the tax base — would be shrinking. Add in alleged economic stagnation and the result would be a rapidly widening gap between inflows and outflows. The ratio of government debt to GDP would skyrocket. Read more
It’s misleading to compare macroeconomic aggregates across countries with very different population growth rates, which is why so many analysts get it wrong on Japan. While we were doing some of the data work for that previous post, however, we thought you might appreciate a visualization of how Japan’s population has aged and why it is poised to shrink a lot over the next few decades:
Commentators, academics and policymakers often assert that Japan’s economic performance since the 1980s is one of the worst fates a rich country can endure. While this has become somewhat less common since 2008 — Paul Krugman even apologized for his earlier criticisms — concerns about the “Japanification” of the euro area have become particularly intense as inflation has slowed and government bond yields have converged towards zero.
In a new note, economists at Nomura suggest that Europeans should only be so lucky. After all, Japan endured its supposedly “lost decades” with grace. The euro area has not, and things could end up getting even worse.
Before we dig into the meat of their arguments in a follow-up post, we can’t stress enough how important it is to adjust aggregate economic data for demographic differences. Read more
The best way to get less of something is to tax it, so nobody should have been surprised when Japanese GDP cratered after the sales tax was raised from 5 per cent to 8 per cent in April.
What the government didn’t expect, and what is encouraging Prime Minister Abe to delay (if not renege on) the plan to raise the tax rate to 10 per cent, was the economy’s failure to snap back. For example, the latest data show that real household consumption, excluding imputed rent, plunged by 3.5 per cent over the past 12 months to its lowest level since the Tohoku earthquake hit in 2011:
Earlier on Friday, we noted that one of the most interesting things coming out of Japan on the day was the rumour that the government was about to approve new allocation targets for the world’s largest pension fund, Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF), which would increase its exposure to domestic stocks.
That rumour has now been confirmed.
As Richard Kaye, portfolio manager at the Comgest Growth Japan fund noted, in terms of importance, this far outweighs the BoJ’s decision to raise the monetary base by around Y80tn a year from Y60-70tn and to triple annual purchases of ETFs and REITS. Read more
Since we can’t put charts in the Cut without borking format for a bunch of readers, here’s what a surprise commitment from the Bank of Japan to raising the monetary base by around Y80tn a year from Y60-70tn, a tripling of annual purchases of ETFs and REITS, and a certain (probably coordinated) GPIF rumour doing the rounds will do to Japanese equities and the yen.
More on the GPIF rumour and the positive and negatives of this latest Kuroda splurge near the bottom.
The Bank of Japan has bought bonds, bills, stocks and property since embarking on its radical monetary easing programme last April.
Now it’s buying time. Read more
When governor Haruhiko Kuroda stood up in April 2013 to set out a bold new regime of monetary easing at the Bank of Japan, the executive summary seemed obvious: it’s all about the number two.
In vowing to double the monetary base by doubling the maturity of the bonds it buys, the BoJ said it would hit an inflation target of about 2 per cent “at the earliest possible time, with a time horizon of about two years.”
The bank then produced targets for base money and its own balance-sheet holdings for the end of the 2013 and the 2014 calendar years (click to enlarge): Read more
Russia’s ESPO crude blend determines the key compensation rate for Russian oil production.
As analysts at JBC Energy note on Monday, however, the crude now trades at its weakest differential to Dubai crude — the benchmark it is most commonly compared to — since it became an established blend on the market in 2010.
Whilst the analysts are quick to point out that there are legitimate fundamental reasons for the weakness, it should not go unnoticed that some regular ESPO customers seem to be missing from the market. Read more
Japan raised its consumption tax rate by 3 percentage points back in April. Unsurprisingly, spending jumped in the few months before the hike and then plummeted when households were forced to bear higher costs with unchanged incomes.
It’s hard to determine the magnitude of the damage this early, but one interesting test is to compare this tax hike to the previous rate increase in 1997, which is often blamed for pushing the country back into recession. (The coincident timing with the Asian financial crisis certainly didn’t help.) Read more
Been a little while since we checked in on Japan and Abenomics but this from Credit Suisse on Abe’s plan to cut the effective corporate tax rate, from more than 35 per cent to “somewhere in the 20s [per cent] within several years”, is worth a look.
The move itself is no real surprise but the potential seigniorage element is further proof of the reliant, intertwined, parent-subsidiary, nature of the Bank of Japan’s relationship with the Abe government. From CS’s Hiromichi Shirakawa and Takashi Shiono: Read more
This chart shows eurozone inflation since the region’s crisis against Japanese inflation from the bursting of its bubble. The offset puts the peak of 1990 where the eurozone was in 2011, when the US near-default started a panic which threatened the survival of the euro. Read more
If you were a Japanese prime minister intent on being radical (where it’s practical) and you had the world’s second largest public pension reserve fund refusing to switch out of domestic bonds and into riskier assets as aggressively as you’d prefer it to…