Time to invest in Japan?

Some financial experts say now is the time to buy and hold Japanese stocks.

By , Guest blogger

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    A man looks at the share prices displayed on an electric board of a securities' firm in Tokyo in this August 2010 file photo. Is now a good time to buy Japanese stocks?
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Nothing much to report from the markets yesterday. The Dow was down 79 points. Gold rose $5.

So, let’s look across the wide Pacific…to the land that invented suicide bombing. Did we update you on our “Trade of the Decade”? We did? We thought so…

And here’s our old friend Marc Faber…with the same idea (or at least half of it.) Buy Japanese stocks, he says…

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After a two-decade bear market, now is the time to buy and hold Japanese stocks, Marc Faber, publisher of the Gloom, Boom & Doom report, said.

Faber, who is credited with predicting the 1987 stock market crash and said two years ago that shares would decline just as they began the biggest rally in more than 50 years, said the Japanese government will be forced to print money to monetize the country’s public debt, the developed world’s biggest. That will cause the yen to weaken, helping boost earnings for the nation’s exporters and buoying stock prices.

Faber joins other bullish investors on Japan, such as Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and David Herro of Oakmark International Fund, in countering skepticism about Japan earned through four recessions and dismal stock returns after the 1990 crash of the bubble economy. The Nikkei 225 (NKY) Stock Average has fallen about 73 percent since it peaked in December 1989.

“If I had to make a bet for the next ten years in terms of equity markets, I would seriously consider a very strong weighting here in Japan,” Faber said yesterday at the CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets’ annual conference in Tokyo. “Once the debt market starts to go down, the yen will begin to weaken and that will lift equity prices. I would buy equities at the present time.”

But wait. What’s this?

Here’s Dennis Gartman with a nuance:

Japan is demographically and fiscally doomed. Her population is collapsing in size and growing elderly at the same time, while her fiscal circumstances are far and away the worst of the industrialized world. Japan has survived for decades in a strange world of fiscal irresponsibility by being able to sell her debt to her own people rather than to the rest of the world as the US can do and must.

Of course, this just supports our position. The Japanese soon will have a bitter choice. Either they abandon their whole silly economic model – with its eternal stimulus budgets and its perpetual zero interest rates. Or they print money. If they give up, it will bring on the final and devastating bottom of their 21-year slump. If they print money, on the other hand…they might hold off the disaster long enough to make it worse.

It is a bit like their situation after the Battle of Midway. Had they examined their situation carefully, they would have seen that the gods of war had gone over to the over side. They faced a superior adversary. And they were out of fuel. They needed control of the seas in order to re-supply; and they had just lost it.

What to do? They had a choice. They could have pulled back to the home island, begged forgiveness and negotiated a settlement. Instead, they soldiered on…in a long, hard, nasty retreat…and eventually turned to kamikaze pilots to try to save the day.

What choice will they make this time? Probably, they’ll print money. Inflation rates will rise. Japanese government bonds will collapse. And investors will try to protect themselves from inflation by buying stocks.

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