Best of the Week
Most Popular
1.Gold And Silver Voodoo Analysis Price Forecasts - Austin_Galt
2.UK Saved From I.S. Threat But Scottish Independence Nightmare is Not Over! - Nadeem_Walayat
3.Silver Price At or Very Close to an Important Low - Clive_Maund
4.Gold And Silver - PetroDollar On Its Deathbed? PMs About To Rally? No - Michael_Noonan
5.Gold and Silver Bear Phase III Dead Ahead - Rambus_Chartology
6.Stock Market Major Selloff Looms - Zeal_LLC
7.Inflate or Die! When Leverage Fails and Market Hope Turns to Fear - Ty_Andros
8.Gold Price Very Close to an Important Low - Clive_Maund
9.Market Forecasts for Stocks, Gold, Silver, Commodities, Financials and Currencies - EWI
10.U.S. Aggression - Will Russia and China Hold Their Fire? - Paul_Craig_Roberts
Last 5 days
“Back Door” Method For The Government To Pay Down The Federal Debt Using Private Savings? - 1st Oct 14
Dow Stocks Index And The No Mercy Cycle - 1st Oct 14
Why China Thinks Gold is the Buy of the Century - 1st Oct 14
Forex Volatility Predicts Bottom in Gold and Silver? - 1st Oct 14
Stock Market Wil-e-Coyote Moment May Have Arrived - 1st Oct 14
Europe Teetering the Ddge of a "Japan-style" Deflation - 30th Sept 14
Economists Economic Atonement - 30th Sept 14
Everything You Need to Know About the Stock Market S&P Index Until Christmas - 30th Sept 14
Singapore Becoming Global Gold Hub - Launches Kilo Bar Contract And Gold ATMs - 30th Sept 14
Germany Fights on Two Fronts to Preserve the Eurozone - 30th Sept 14
Turn the Tables on the Gold and Silver Market Manipulators - 30th Sept 14
U.S. 2014 Election Business as Usual - 30th Sept 14
Gold - Time to Buy the Dip? - 30th Sept 14
Urging Investors to Stay Liquid for the Coming Gold Stocks Boom - 30th Sept 14
The Japanese Deflation Myth and the Yen’s Slump - 29th Sept 14
Epic Investor Optimism that Can Be Reversed Only by a Huge Stocks Bear Market - 29th Sept 14
Russia’s Gokhran Buying Gold Bullion In 2014 and Will Buy Palladium In 2015 - 29th Sept 14
The End of Monetary Policy - 29th Sept 14
Here's What Rising Interest Rates Really Do to Your Shares - 29th Sept 14
Is a Credible Stock Market Top Forming? - 29th Sept 14
Silver Price At or Very Close to an Important Low - 29th Sept 14
Gold Price Very Close to an Important Low - 29th Sept 14
Nihilism And The Unknown Future - 29th Sept 14
Stock Market S&P, NAS Change In Trend? None Apparent, But A Caveat - 29th Sept 14
UK Saved From I.S. Threat But Scottish Independence Nightmare is Not Over! - 29th Sept 14
U.S. Aggression - Will Russia and China Hold Their Fire? - 28th Sept 14
Currency Wars and the Death of the Euro - Audio - 28th Sept 14
Obscure Maritime Law Practically “Guarantees” Profits for These Energy Companies - 28th Sept 14
Stock Market Primary IV Underway? - 27th Sept 14
Darwin And The Climate Apocalypse - 27th Sept 14
The Global Middle Class and Copper Consumption, A Stop Spike Event - 27th Sept 14
Can Money Save The Climate? - 27th Sept 14
Gold And Silver - PetroDollar On Its Deathbed? PMs About To Rally? No - 27th Sept 14
Debt and Inflation Consquences of American Fear - 27th Sept 14
U.S. and Global Confidence are in Divergence - So Are Stock Markets - 27th Sept 14
Are U.S. Cars About to Crash? - 27th Sept 14
Why the U.S. Created and Armed ISIS From Libya to Syria - 27th Sept 14
Stock Market vs the Developing Bear Market for Liberal Democracy? - 26th Sept 14
Stock Market Major Selloff Looms - 26th Sept 14
How My Charts Uncovered Two Big Stocks That Are Soaring Like Small Caps - 26th Sept 14
What Cycles Reveal About Stock Market Crash - 26th Sept 14
Gold Not A Safe Haven On Terrorism, Middle East Bombing, Russia ... Yet - 26th Sept 14
Valuing Gold and Turkey Farming - 26th Sept 14
Gold $1200 Underpinned by Physical Demand - 26th Sept 14
Inflate or Die! When Leverage Fails and Market Hope Turns to Fear - 26th Sept 14
Market Forecasts for Stocks, Gold, Silver, Commodities, Financials and Currencies - 26th Sept 14
Gold and Silver Bear Phase III Dead Ahead - 26th Sept 14
The Home Depot Breach Boils Our Blood – and It Should - 26th Sept 14
Why the Pundits are Wrong About Crude Oil Prices - 26th Sept 14
Where’s the Economic Growth? - 26th Sept 14
Stock Market Future Bull - 25th Sept 14
The Specter of Global Debt Default is Once Again Rearing its Head - 25th Sept 14
All Major Market Analysis and Forecasts Investor Open House has Started! - 25th Sept 14
Federal Reserve Policies Cause Booms and Busts - 25th Sept 14
Currency Wars Deepen - Russia, Kazakhstan Buy Very Large 30 Tons Of Gold In August - 25th Sept 14
Strong U.S. Dollar Pressures Gold - 25th Sept 14

Free Instant Analysis

Free Instant Technical Analysis


Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

The Most Exciting Event in the History of Technical Analysis

Dodge Japan's Economic Bullet by Investing in South Korea

Economics / Asian Economies Sep 05, 2008 - 12:34 PM GMT

By: Money_Morning

Economics Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleMartin Hutchinson writes: have been much more positive about the Japanese economy than most other analysts in recent months, largely because I believed that many of the problems from the Japanese recession of 1990-2003 were finally in the country's rearview mirror. In particular, I believed that the Japanese budget deficit – which, by 2003, had become quite acute – was well on the way to being solved through public spending restraint. That, in turn, would allow Japan to pay down its excessive public debt, giving its private sector room to expand.


But the surprise resignation of Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda on Monday suggests I may have been wrong about the country's near-term prospects.

Japan Gives Investors a Bubble Bath

The Japanese stock market and real estate bubble of the 1980s is now the stuff of stock-market legend, for it sent that country into a tailspin in 1990-91, after which came more than a decade of very slow growth.  There were a number of causes – one was the appalling quantity of rubbish loans that Japanese banks had put on their books during the bubble (sound familiar…. perhaps we are we seeing a reprise here in the U.S. market? ), and the second was the inexorable expansion of the Japanese public sector.

Prime minister after prime minister would propose “stimulus packages” of public spending, mostly on roads and bridges in rural areas (always popular with politicians from those areas). The largest package – by Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto in 1998  – was more than $400 billion, the equivalent of 10% of Japan's gross domestic product (GDP).

Apart from covering Japan's beautiful scenery with unsightly overpasses, these capital infusion packages had two very clear effects:

  • They increased Japan's public spending – from 31.5% of GDP in 1991 to 38.1% of GDP in 2002.
  • And they created a huge public debt problem; Japan currently has public debt of 182% of GDP, the highest ratio in the world.

These stimulus packages had one very obvious shortcoming – they didn't stimulate. And with good reason. These programs did nothing useful to revive the Japanese economy because the mostly useless public works projects they financed (in terms of GDP, these projects were more than twice as large as those of the next-most-profligate public-works spender – France) were using up all the domestic capital that should have been financing private-sector growth. In the parlance of economics, this is known as “ crowding out ,” and can be quite damaging, as Japan's experience demonstrates.

Japan's Prime Minister Troika

Since 2003, the key figure in Japan's economic recovery is former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi (2001-06), who stopped building “bridges to nowhere” – prompting major protests from the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) “old guard.” That stopped the growth in debt and then gradually brought the budget deficit down. As a result, Japan's economic growth resumed in 2003.

Koizumi was succeeded briefly by Shinzo Abe , and then by Fukuda. Like Koizumi, Fukuda was a proponent of reducing public spending – he wanted to balance the Japanese budget by 2011. Indeed, Koizumi and Fukuda were actually quite close: Koizumi got his political start under the premiership of Fukuda's father (also a tight-budget man) in the 1970s. So you can see why I was so confident that Japan's public spending would be kept under control and that the Japanese economy would continue recovering.

Japan's GDP showed a surprise dip in the second quarter, shrinking by 0.6%. As a result, public clamor arose for a “stimulus package” of public spending or tax cuts . The reality, however, is that Fukuda had been having a hard time since July 2007, because the upper house of the National Diet (which has considerable power) had been controlled by the opposition Democratic Party of Japan , blocking legislation.

Fukuda's weakness was demonstrated by his Aug. 1 appointment of his political opponent, Taro Aso , as secretary general of the LDP. When Fukuda's cautious Aug. 29 stimulus package of $18 billion – which consisted mostly of loans – was decried as inadequate, he realized that the clamor for extra spending would be unstoppable, and resigned.

Fukuda will likely be succeeded by Aso, a protégé of the big-spending barons of the rural constituencies.

Déjà vu all Over Again

The bottom line is that the public sector is likely to grow again, as it did in the 1990s, producing larger Japanese budget deficits, packing on more debt and stifling private sector development. Since Japan's public debt is already so high, the chances are good that the country's debt rating of AA ( Standard & Poor's ) /Aa3 (Moody's Investors Service ( MCO )) will be downgraded. That would increase borrowing costs for all Japanese companies and damage the economy badly.

For more than a year, I had been positive on the Japanese economy, even as the market declined. But it's finally time for a shift in outlook:

In the meantime, until it becomes clear that this China-Japan connection can pump up the Japanese economy, there's another Asian market – actually, one of the “ Four Asian Tigers ” – that's clearly worth a look as an alternative.

And that market is Korea.

Korea's Profit Promise

The Korean government recently improved with the election of president Lee Myung-bak and a pro-business party with a substantial majority. Korea's economic growth is likely to accelerate, particularly if we have seen the worst of the commodity and energy bubble, since Korea is primarily an importer of commodities and energy goods.

The Korean stock market has been beaten down this year, dropping 20%, and currently trades at only 10 times earnings. But this low valuation is undeserved, since the Korean economy is expected to grow at better than a 4% clip for both this year and next, according to the respected global-economics magazine, The Economist .

Take a look, for example, at the Korean exchange-traded index fund (ETF), the iShares MSCI South Korea Index Fund ( EWY ), which tracks the Morgan Stanley Capital International Korea index. The ETF currently carries a Price/Earnings (P/E) ratio of 10.3 and features a dividend yield – after expenses – of about 1.9%.

[ Editor's Note : For additional insights on Korea, check out Money Morning's investment research report: Why South Korea is set to Become the Biggest Economic Story of 2008 . The report is free of charge. For broader investment insights on Asia in general, check out our research report on the once-in-a-lifetime profit plays being created by China's emergence – and find out how you can get a free copy of investing guru Jim Rogers' bestseller, “ A Bull in China .” Money Morning recently ran a two-part story ( Part I and Part II ) detailing our most recent exclusive interview with the global-investing guru.]

News and Related Story Links :

By Martin Hutchinson
Contributing Editor

Money Morning/The Money Map Report

©2008 Monument Street Publishing. All Rights Reserved. Protected by copyright laws of the United States and international treaties. Any reproduction, copying, or redistribution (electronic or otherwise, including on the world wide web), of content from this website, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited without the express written permission of Monument Street Publishing. 105 West Monument Street, Baltimore MD 21201, Email: customerservice@moneymorning.com

Disclaimer: Nothing published by Money Morning should be considered personalized investment advice. Although our employees may answer your general customer service questions, they are not licensed under securities laws to address your particular investment situation. No communication by our employees to you should be deemed as personalized investment advice. We expressly forbid our writers from having a financial interest in any security recommended to our readers. All of our employees and agents must wait 24 hours after on-line publication, or 72 hours after the mailing of printed-only publication prior to following an initial recommendation. Any investments recommended by Money Morning should be made only after consulting with your investment advisor and only after reviewing the prospectus or financial statements of the company.

Money Morning Archive

© 2005-2014 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

Free Report - Financial Markets 2014