The Bank of Japan (BOJ) has recently announced its intention to adopt a tighter monetary policy, signaling a departure from its previous approach. While this news bodes well for Japanese stocks, it may have an adverse effect on U.S. stocks and bonds.
BOJ’s Previous Approach
For the past seven years, the BOJ has consistently maintained interest rates between 0% and 0.5%. Additionally, they have actively acquired Japanese government bonds and employed yield curve control strategies to regulate interest rates. This approach aimed to keep rates low and stimulate economic growth.
Transitioning to a More Flexible Approach
In recent months, the central bank hinted at a transition away from its existing policies as Japan experiences glimpses of inflation after decades. Last week, the BOJ made it clear that change is on the horizon. While the short-term interest rate target remains at 0.1%, the language used by the central bank indicates a shift towards a more flexible stance.
Updated Trading Range for Benchmark Bonds
A notable change made by the BOJ is the adjustment of the trading range for benchmark 10-year bonds. Previously, this range was within plus or minus 0.5%, but it has now been widened to plus or minus 1%.
Implications for Global Markets
This shift in policy signals that the BOJ is no longer willing to act as a buffer, suppressing interest rates and injecting liquidity into the economy. Furthermore, the central bank is not waiting for further inflation before moving towards higher rates.
Attractive Opportunities for Japanese Investors
The BOJ’s new direction presents Japanese savers, pension funds, and insurers with attractive opportunities to invest domestically. As a result of potential currency fluctuations, investing in U.S. Treasury bonds, either hedged or unhedged, may not be as appealing as before.
Japanese bonds are now offering positive returns, which could entice some investors. However, for long-term investors, Japanese stocks may be a preferred option. With a dividend yield of 2.5% and on the rise, these stocks have experienced a recent rally, making them an attractive investment choice. Analysts, such as Udith Sikand from Gavekal Research, suggest that this trend may continue.
In conclusion, the Bank of Japan’s shift towards a tighter monetary stance has significant implications for both Japanese and global markets. While Japanese investors may find more favorable opportunities domestically, U.S. stocks and bonds may face challenges due to this policy change.
The Potential for Further Gains in Japanese Stocks
The iShares MSCI Japan ETF (ticker: EWJ) has seen a strong performance this year, with a 16% increase. Analysts believe that there may be more room for growth in Japanese stocks. While Japan’s transition away from subzero interest rates may make the currency less appealing to investors looking for short-term gains, experts like Marc Chandler, managing director for Bannockburn Global Forex, point out that the yen is still undervalued. Chandler suggests that it could take a couple of years for the currency to reach its fair value, which is another positive factor for Japanese stocks.
According to Bank of America’s Masashi Akutsu, domestic demand-led stocks are particularly attractive due to their strong earnings compared to exporters. Additionally, these stocks are expected to benefit from the boost in economic activity during the summer holiday season and rising wages.
Among the domestically oriented stocks with resilient earnings expectations, Akutsu highlights Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (8306. Japan), Oriental Land (OLCLY), Tokio Marine Holdings (8766. Japan), and Nitori Holdings (NCLTY), a furniture retailer.
While Japanese stocks stand to benefit from these developments, Apollo Group Chief Economist Torsten Sløk warns that U.S. assets may suffer. Sløk states that Japanese investors hold significant amounts of U.S. credit and predicts that they will sell off this credit to purchase Japanese Government Bonds in the coming months. This shift will result in increased borrowing costs for U.S. firms in the credit market. Sløk suggests that this could potentially be problematic for U.S. stock markets, which have experienced a 20% increase in value so far this year.
It remains to be seen how quickly Japanese long-term investors, who have been substantial buyers of U.S. and other global bonds, will adjust their portfolios to consider more attractive options at home.