The economic impact of Japan's demographic decline is immense, but there's always opportunity in chaos.
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- DON’T BE SO ARROGANT, MR. PRESIDENT
- The Latest Obama Outrage: the Family's $100 Million Vacation
- Bank of Japan Called "Single Biggest Danger to Global Markets Today"
- How to Profit From Japan's New Lost Decade
- Bank of Japan Policy is Doomed to Failure
- Can the Japanese Economy End Deflation With These Steps?
- Why The Fiscal Cliff "Deal" is Spelled P-O-R-K
- Why Japan's "Lost Decades" Are Headed to America in 2016
- These Three Iconic Japanese Brand Names Are On My "Short List"
- What Hope Means in Japan These Days
- Investors Who Own Japanese Stocks are About to Get a Nasty Surprise
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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing to get Japan back into the global spotlight.
And he's irking a lot of world leaders in the process.
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The best Japan ETF to buy right now will do one of two things.
It will either play the surging Japanese stock market. Or, it will short the yen. The Nikkei 225 index is up 7.2% so far this year. The yen has fallen 16% in the last 12 months.
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As developed nations age, birth rates drop, and populations decline, investing strategies need to change.
And Money Morning Chief Investment Strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald says no country illustrates this trend better than Japan. That country's population is expected to fall by 30 million by 20148.
But Fitz-Gerald does not advise pulling out of Japan - or any market today with an aging population.
Empires have come and gone. Some lasted a blink of an eye and some millennia.
The question is, after 9/11, the rise of China and a great financial crisis, where does the U.S. empire stack up to its predecessors?
Well, it seems the one commonality they all have is the point when their might was undermined by sloth and greed. And entitlements: free bread and circuses. For some it took years, others centuries.
Here, in a compelling and unique address, is what Romulus Augustus, the last emperor of the Roman Empire, might say to President Obama now about how to keep America great.
Read on and share with family and friends...
How much do you spend on your summer vacation? American households usually spend about $1,200 per person on summer vacations, according to a recent American Express survey.
Presidents spend more on their vacations than you or I. They have to. Air Force One and security does cost more than loading the Honda and heading to the beach.
Here's how much some recent presidents spent our tax dollars on vacation.
Ronald Reagan spent most of his free time at his California ranch. Taxpayers covered the cost of approximately $8 million for presidential travel during Reagan's first six years in office, according to the Los Angeles Times. That amounts to $1.3 million a year.
For George Bush the cost of flying Air Force One to his Texas ranch was approximately $56,800 per trip, for each of the 180 trips according to Media Matters. President Bush spent Christmas during his two terms at the White House so his staff and secret service could spend the holiday with their family, according to Conservative Byte.
Now Obama plans to blow away all previous presidents' leisure travel costs on our dime with a better than Disney World extravaganza trip to Africa.
However Obama had to cancel the safari because of the need to fill the surrounding jungle with snipers to guard the president from wild animals!
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The Bank of Japan is sticking to its policy of fiscal stimulus to try to stoke inflation, and that's rattled markets worldwide.
There are short-term signs of economic recovery such as an increase in consumer spending and in manufacturing.
But longer-term, Money Morning Chief Investment Strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald told CCTV, "there has never been an instance in history where stimulus has worked. So the question really is when, not if, this will break down."
An old Japanese proverb notes "ura niwa ura ga aru" which means the reverse side has a reverse side.
Japanese markets have come a long way in the past 8 months rising an additional 4.94% in wild trading on Monday alone. Yet there are real long-term dangers to all this volatility.
First and foremost, when (not if) Japan collapses it will affect every investor, in every major market, regardless of your exposure to Japan.
Click here to find out what you can do to profit from the maelstrom...
The Bank of Japan (BOJ), Japan's central bank, bowed to government pressure this week by adopting a 2% inflation target and accepting responsibility for achieving that goal "as early as possible."
The BOJ announced today (Tuesday) that it will begin a program of "unlimited easing" beginning in January 2014 following the end of the central bank's current asset-purchasing program in December.
In a statement announcing the results of Tuesday's Monetary Policy Committee meeting, the Bank of Japan said it anticipates purchasing 10 trillion yen in Treasury notes and 3 trillion yen in Japanese government bonds (JGBs) each month beginning in January 2014.
The statement also indicated the central bank's balance sheet will expand by about 10 trillion yen by the end of 2014 as a result of the purchases. No further expansion of the BOJ balance sheet is anticipated thereafter.
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Japan's newly elected Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is taking aggressive measures in an attempt to end the deflationary spiral that has plagued the Japanese economy for more than twenty years.
The return of Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to power in a landslide election victory last month is seen as a mandate to do whatever it takes to revive the flagging Japanese economy.
One of the first policies likely to be put into place is the passage of a massive supplementary budget for fiscal 2012 (the year ending March 31, 2013). Depending upon how you count it, the budget ranges from 10 trillion yen ($112 billion) to 20 trillion yen ($224 billion).
Observers have expressed concern over the size of the stimulus and what impact it might have on Japan's sovereign credit rating and on the Japanese government bond (JGB) market, plus what it could do to the U.S. economy.
Let's take a look.
Arm Twisting the Bank of Japan
The supplementary budget is nothing but good, old-fashioned pork barrel spending; the kind of money politics the LDP was known for when they governed Japan for more than 50 years.
What is new and different about Prime Minister Abe's approach to reviving the Japanese economy is his strong arm tactics against the Bank of Japan (BoJ), Japan's central bank.
BoJ independence was enshrined in law only in 1999. Abe has run roughshod over the intent of the law by demanding that retiring BoJ Governor Masaaki Shirakawa sign a written document agreeing to do whatever is necessary-generally considered to be "unlimited easing"-to achieve an inflation target of 2% over the medium-term.
At its last Monetary Policy Committee (the equivalent of the Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee) meeting, which took place just after Abe's landslide election victory, the BoJ agreed to review its policy goals and come back in January with updated policy recommendations. The next Monetary Policy Committee meeting takes place over two days on Jan. 21 and 22.
Press reports indicate that the BoJ will roll over and do pretty much whatever Abe wants - and here's why.
Behind the scenes of the Fiscal Cliff debate, there was plenty of f-bombing, poison pilling, and grandstanding leading up to the deal - and that was before the members of Congress and the Senate actually got serious with their usual ultimatums, followed by earnest- looking sound bites and posturing. But what gets me really riled up is the amount of "pork" contained in the bill...
The hope is that Abe's promises of fresh stimulus, unlimited spending and placing a priority on domestic infrastructure will be the elixir that restores Japan's global muscle.
As a veteran global trader who actually lives in Japan part time each year, and who has for the last 20+ years, let me make a counterpoint with particular force - don't fall for it.
I've heard this mantra eight times since Japan's market collapsed in 1990 - each time a new stimulus plan was launched - and six times since 2006 as each of the six former "newly elected" Prime Ministers came to power.
The bottom line: The Nikkei is still down 73.89% from its December 29, 1989 peak. That means it's going to have to rebound a staggering 283% just to break even.
Now here's the thing. What's happening in Japan is not "someone else's" problem. Nor is it something you should gloss over.
In fact, the pain Japan continues to suffer should scare the hell out of you.
And here's why ...
The so-called "Lost Decade" that's now more than 20 years long in Japan is a portrait of precisely what's to come for us here in the United States.
Perhaps not for a few years yet, but it will happen just as we have already followed in Japan's footsteps with a "lost decade" of our own.
The parallels are staggering.
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I don't disagree - only the big profits are on the short side, especially when it comes to these three iconic Japanese tech brands.
As I quipped earlier in the year, it's more likely that Godzilla will walk out of Tokyo Bay again than it is that Japan will suddenly rebound.
I am well aware that's not a popular thought and that it will likely earn me my share of wrath on the Internet. Save your breath and your keystrokes. Having spent more than 20 years in country, I am intimately familiar with the arguments.
For example, value-oriented investors consistently remind me that the Nikkei is "dramatically undervalued." I am also well aware of the "construction boom" that was supposed to follow the tsunami and nuclear crisis.
And I still continually hear from the statistically motivated that the Japanese economy just "has to turn around" because it's exceedingly rare that an economy remains in the doldrums after 20 years.
The Nikkei remains 75.5% off its December 29, 1989 peak for a reason. That means it's going to take a 308.19% gain just to get to break-even based on where it's trading as of this writing.
If you think that's a sure thing, I'm happy for you but wish to point out that business conditions now are hardly conducive to the kind of growth that got the Nikkei there in the first place. The entire society is deleveraging. Consumers are tapped out and the government is a wreck.
As for the construction boom, that's a misconception. As I noted in a flurry of interviews following the terrible events of March 11, 2011, only a few companies are going to enjoy any sort of revenue expansion whatsoever. Sure, there might be a short-term pop, but the majority would experience significant drops in revenue and exports resulting from production losses and a post-quake strengthening of the yen that will compound the efforts to regain lost ground.
And finally, as for the notion that markets simply don't stay down for this long...says who?
It was inconceivable in 1990 that Japan would lose a decade -- let alone three. Nine failed stimulus programs and 22 years later, the Japanese economy has just lurched into another technical recession this week. The rules of the game have changed.
Clearly, the markets can, as the old saying goes, remain illogical far longer than investors can remain solvent.
Here's the Reader's Digest version of my thinking:
They're taking matters into their own hands and going around the traditional Japanese way of doing things.
The so-called "Lost Decade" is now entering its 3rd lost decade following 8-10 separate bailout failures, depending on how you count the various initiatives over the years.
Growth remains a paralyzed version of its former self with the nation's GDP roughly the size it was in 1990.
Worse, many Japanese companies like Panasonic and Sony, once at the vanguard of innovation, now find themselves scrambling to keep up with clever rivals who have taken the lead and who now threaten to push them out of the global industries they once dominated for good.
Combined public, private and corporate debt now approaches 500% of GDP.
Roughly 35% of the working population here remains trapped in arubaito, or part- time work. T hat's a far cry from the vision of lifetime employment that once dominated the corporate landscape.
Some, like Tadashi Yanai, who founded and heads the Japanese brand Uniqlo (pronounced yu-ni-klo), are deemed "young thinkers" bent on change through the sheer force of will and the economic means to bring it about. Yanai is actually 63 years old.
Speaking Truth to PowerOthers are truly young, like Osaka's controversial mayor, Toru Hashimoto. At 43, he's as frank as they come in the staid world of Japanese politics where change is nearly impossible to come by.
To give you an example of what I am talking about, consider Hashimoto's recent observation that the Japanese political system is "crap." Not "difficult," not "worth consideration," not deserving of "careful thought," as would be the traditional ways the hyper- polite Japanese have expressed their opinions -- but "crap" as in the four- letter variety.
With their focus on the U.S. fiscal cliff and ongoing EU banking problems, many investors just don't understand how interlinked trade between China and Japan has become, nor the breadth of the damage this strained relationship can do to their portfolios.
But they're about to.
The breaking news here in Japan is that Honda cut its full-year net profit forecast by 20% following a 40% drop in September sales. That marked a 16-month low in sales that is directly related to nationalistic friction between the two nations.
That's adds up to a 95 billion Yen hit. To put this into perspective, Honda's net profit last year was only 211.4 billion Yen, so we're talking about a nearly 50% drop in the company's bottom line.
Under the circumstances, I would be very surprised if Nissan and Toyota, both of which also have significant operations in China, don't follow with similar results when they report next week. While I haven't seen estimates from Nissan yet, Forbes reports that Toyota sales are off a staggering 49% over the same time frame.
That's the biggest drop in a decade.
That's not inconsequential considering that Chinese-Japanese trade accounted for more than $340 billion USD in 2011. Japan is China's fourth-largest trading partner after the EU, the U.S. and the ASEAN nations respectively. It accounts for approximately 10% of China's total annual gross trade volume according to Xinhua.
On the other hand, China is Japan's largest trading partner and has been since 2007 when Japanese corporations dropped the U.S. market like a hot potato. China is also Japan's single largest export destination, accounting for nearly 25% of total export volume as well as the single-biggest source of its imported goods.
The damage won't be limited.