THE WisdomTree BLOG
In coming months, Japan’s monetary policy is likely to move back to center stage. This is not just because Prime Minister Abe will have to make a decision on the next Governor, but, more importantly, because the case for a change in the operational targets of the BoJ’s Yield-Curve-Control is growing stronger. Specifically, I expect a possible change in the BoJ duration target: a pivot away from targeting the 10-year yield to targeting the 5-year or 7-year yield could greatly enhance BoJ reflation credentials.
Japan’s upcoming election is poised to usher in a new era of policy competition and political accountability. Structural reform in general, supply-side reform in particular, is poised to accelerate if, as we suspect, Tokyo Governor Koike catapults herself into the never-imagined-before position of being both in power and in opposition: in power because she will continue to be the ruling Governor of Tokyo; and in opposition because she will be the leader of the second largest party in parliament (assuming current opinion polls are correct in their predictions).
A new force is gaining momentum in Japanese politics, led by Tokyo Governor Koike. Her new national party—Party of Hope—has just forged an election alliance with the opposition Democratic Party that could deliver as many as 120-180 out of 465 seats contested in the upcoming 22 October lower house election. Most importantly, "Koikenomics" is poised to re-energise the original pro-growth promise of "Abenomics". This is because Governor Koike has a long-standing record as a pro-business, pro-deregulation and pro-growth politician.
Japanese media are speculating that PM Abe may call a snap election, possibly as early as October 22. Although the Prime Minister himself has, so far, not commented on these speculations—and it is at the Prime Minister's discretion to dissolve Parliament—my sources suggest a reasonable probability of an early election. If so, the key implication for markets would be an almost certain change in Japan's macro policy mix: the probability of taxes going up in 2019 would rise, which in turn raises the odds that the BOJ will have to do more for longer to ensure against the inevitable recession that has always followed consumption tax hikes.
The April-June GDP report suggests that the Japanese economy has entered into a sweet spot, with growth accelerating and broadening into all components of domestic demand. While the 4% annualised GDP growth rate marks peak slingshot acceleration, the details of the report fully verify our thesis that Japan has entered a self-sustaining domestic demand-led up-cycle. Looking ahead towards 2018/19, we maintain our call for 2-2.5% real GDP growth (and 3-3.5% nominal GDP growth). For policy makers, the margin for error on Yen strength is eroding quickly. Specifically, the Japan sweet spot is marked by the following factors.
Prime Minister Abe has presented his new cabinet. It is Abe's third leadership team since becoming Prime Minister in December 2012 and, like his previous teams, it is dominated by close and trusted allies. Moreover, the key positions did not change—Aso stays as Finance Minister, Seko as Economics Minister, and Suga as Chief Cabinet Spokesman. I expect this new cabinet will present a next supplementary budget of around Y5trn by October, focusing on added support for women, families and elderly.
Once a year, WisdomTree conducts a rebalance of its dividend-weighted stock indices which adjusts positions based on changes in relative valuations. We measure these relative valuations by examining stock price movements versus fundamentals in international markets. The primary variable we are utilising in our broad-based index strategies is a company’s Dividend Stream®.
After a period of relative calm and no new initiatives, Japanese politics is poised to move back into global headlines in the coming months. This is because Prime Minister Abe has now presented a concrete timeline for reforming Japan’s constitution: the goal is to clear all the necessary Parliamentary hurdles by next summer (2018) so that the required national referendum can be called before end-2018.
Our structural bull-thesis for Japan calls for an endogenous, self-sustaining domestic demand up-cycle that is driven by Japan’s private sector. Demographics is the key force – for households, the structural shortage of labour will be pushing up incomes and improving job security, thus creating purchasing power for a “new middle class”; and for companies, the scarcity of human capital will force a shift towards more capital-intensive business models, i.e. a structural up-turn in business investment to improve the quality of the domestic capital stock. Also, M&A activity is poised to pick-up, with the scarcity of human capital forcing fundamental industrial reorganization. Clear-speak—Japan’s productivity is ready for a positive super-cycle, which should translate into a structural up-turn in capital returns.
We maintain our view that Japanese risk assets—equities and real estate—are on track for a multiyear structural bull market. We believe 2017 is poised to bring a positive reversal of earnings momentum, with a pickup in top-line sales growth and a weaker currency capable of delivering 25% to 30% earnings growth (after last year’s drop of around 8%, calendar year). Given the relatively attractive valuation backdrop—TOPIX is trading at a modest discount to its 10-year averages on both trailing and forward P/E multiples—the rising visibility of earnings is likely to be the principal driver of Japan’s market performance. In contrast, we expect policy action and initiatives to be relatively less important market drivers for Japan, and the Bank of Japan (BOJ) to stay put and maintain its zero-rate 10-year bond yield target for the foreseeable future.
Director of Research
Viktor, who has over 14 years’ experience in research, joined the firm from Renaissance Asset Managers where he was Head of Research. Viktor provides macro research on various themes covering equities, commodities and fixed income. His research for WisdomTree in Europe offers investment strategies for the current range of Smart Beta UCITS ETFs as well as the Boost range of short and leveraged Exchange Traded Notes. Viktor has previously worked as a Research Analyst at BlackRock and Thomson Financial. He started his career as an Equity Strategist at Commerzbank, after he completed a Masters in Economics from Maastricht University, in the Netherlands.
Nizam Hamid is an ETF Strategist for WisdomTree in Europe and has extensive experience in the European ETF market. Prior to this he was at C8 Investments, a systematic hedge fund, focusing on business development and quantitative strategies, before that he was a consultant at FTSE. From 2010 to 2012, he was Head of ETF Strategy and Deputy Head of Lyxor ETFs, at the time Europe’s second largest ETF issuer. Before joining Lyxor he was Head of Sales Strategy for the Europe and the Middle East at iShares in London. Prior to that, he was Global Head of ETFs, Portfolio and Index Strategy at Deutsche Bank from 1998 to 2008. He has also worked as a quantitative analyst in London and Tokyo for UBS, BZW and Bankers Trust / NatWest Markets. He holds a Degree in Economics from the University of Liverpool.
Nick Leung is a Research Analyst for WisdomTree in Europe. He is responsible for macroeconomic commentary and analysis, formulating investment strategies and trade ideas, as well as the maintenance of research collateral. Prior to joining in 2015, Nick was at Source, having completed his Master’s Degree at Imperial College London. During this time he was also involved in an ice-cream entrepreneurship project with Unilever. Nick holds a BA in Economics from the University of Nottingham.
Head of ETNs
Director of Capital Markets
WisdomTree's Head of Japan
Capital Markets and Investment Solutions, Index and Quantitative Investment, ICBC Credit Suisse Asset Management (International) Company Limited
Ms. Pang holds a M.Sc. in Development Finance from The University of Manchester, a M.A. in Journalism and a B.A. in Business Administration from The Chinese University of Hong Kong.