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Markets Rejoice as Japan Embarks on Unprecedented Stimulus Program


A smiling Haruhiko Kuroda, the governor of the Bank of Japan, announced this morning that Japan will embark on one of the largest monetary stimulus programs in history. It’s a huge win for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who in his second coming has turned the prevailing image of the Japanese PM as a faceless, ineffective nonentity on its head, and really made his mark. It’s a significant new direction for the BoJ’s monetary philosophy, “a complete abandonment of everything that the Bank of Japan has said about monetary policy in the past two decades,” as Gavyn Davies writes for the FT.

Predictably, markets rejoiced at the news that yet another central bank is sloshing more gin into the punch bowl. But not everyone is pleased.

Japan isn’t just turning on the monetary spigots; it’s joining the global currency war—the competition between major world economies to gain export advantages by cutting their currency value that has been a leading feature of global economic policy since the ’08 crash. Print money, struggle to reflate, rinse, repeat. The BoJ’s move is in part intended to stimulate the economy by bringing down the yen, primarily against the renminbi. It’s an economic strike that China will resent, but much of the impatience with China in Japan reflects anger at what many see as unfair competition for exports based on China’s cheap currency policy.

A cheaper yen is also going to be tough news for countries like Brazil and South Africa where the policies of northern central banks have already made life hard for policy makers. And in the US, expect that cheaper Japanese imports will challenge American manufacturers as well.

By itself, the new BOJ policy won’t be enough to regenerate the Japanese economy. It will be interesting to see what else Abe and Co. come up with. When he took office Abe planned to boost Japan’s economy by firing “three arrows“—monetary stimulus, fiscal spending, and regulatory changes and liberalization to increase hiring and investment. That third arrow is the most critical and will be the hardest to fire in a country like Japan where there’s lots of resistance to change.

In any case, Americans might want to think of taking that once in a lifetime trip to Japan while the yen is relatively cheap. The cherry blossoms that bloom spectacularly across Japan every spring reach their peak in April, but Japan at any time of year is one of the most beautiful and fascinating places in the world for a visit. If you haven’t seen Kyoto and Nara, seen Mount Fuji towering above the plains, stayed in a traditional Japanese inn or hand fed dwarf deer as you wander the grounds of an ancient temple, you are missing out on some of the most rewarding experiences this earth has to offer.

Prime Minister Abe and his loyal allies in the BOJ are putting the whole country on sale; go while you can.

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  • rheddles

    It looks more like the 30’s all the time. Because no one who lived through them is anywhere near the levers of power. So those in power have to relearn the lessons. And then came the 40’s.

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