Thursday, June 28, 2012

What Investors Need To Know About Japan

In the 90's Japan experienced a slowdown in their economy known as the "Lost Decade" despite the aftershock Japan is still a major economic power.  Japan's GDP was worth 5497.81 billion in 2010 according to the World Bank.  In 2011 Japan stood as the 4th largest economy in the world according to the World Factbook

The country's energy infrastructure and economy were hurt in March 2011 as a result of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake, the strongest it has ever had.  This is devastating since the country has no natural energy resources, Japan is the 2nd largest importer of oil and the largest importer of coal and liquefied natural gas.  Japan was another victim the Great Recession claimed it experienced a slowdown for its exports and caused the country to slip further into recession.  Stimulus spending allowed the country to recover in 2009-10 but the earthquake and tsunami in 2011 delivered a strong blow which disrupted their economy once again.

The Nikkei 225 closed higher today at 8874.11 one of the day's top performers was Yamaha Corp.  Japan is among the world's most technologically advanced and largest producers of motor vehicles. 

According to Forbes Tadashi Yanai & Family is #88 on the list of billionaires he is the founder of Fast Retailing of which Uniqlo is a subsidiary.  The company opened up a Uniqlo store in Manhattan becoming the single largest retail space on Fifth Avenue.

Japan's consumer confidence has been improving after collapsing at 26.2 in December 2008 it is currently at 40.70.  The unemployment rate in the country is 4.6%, inflation at 0.40% and interest rates are at 0%.  Japan is considered a safe haven especially with the European crisis scaring the world, in June demand for their bonds hit a record high.  Foreigners own about 8.3% of all Japanese government bonds even though the 10yr only yields .82%.  A Japanese yield spike should worry us all, half of the government's revenue goes to paying interest on these bonds. 

Japan faces other long term problems such as deflation, dependence on exports to generate growth and an aging population.  With electricity supplies tight in Japan and manufacturing troubles the country is considering the idea of free trade with the European Union and other countries.

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