Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Japan Leads Global Stock Market Drop

The 'Helicopter Economics Investing Guide' is meant to help educate people on how to make profitable investing choices in the current economic environment. We have coined this term to describe the current monetary and fiscal policies of the U.S. government, which involve unprecedented money printing. This is the official blog of the New York Investing meetup.

The Nikkei closed at 8995 last night, 77% below its final price in December 1989. The rising value of the yen is what is causing the stock market drop. The yen just hit a 15-year high against the dollar and 9-year high against the euro. A richly valued yen is a big negative for Japan's export-based economy.

Japan has been trying to grapple with its real estate and stock market bubbles from the 1980s for over twenty years now. Its approach has been a zero interest rate policy (ZIRP) and an unending serious of stimulus programs (it was recently announced yet another one is being considered). The United States is currently following these same failed policies, but Washington is expecting that somehow they will work here. It is true that the U.S. real estate and stock bubbles in the 1990s and early 2000s were not nearly as bad as those that took place in Japan earlier. So maybe it won't take U.S. stocks 19 years to hit their lows (that would be 2026 by the way) as was the case for the Nikkei - or at least the case for the Nikkei so far. It cannot be said for certain that the 6695 low in March 2009 will hold.

Being the perennially weak sister, problems with global economic imbalances are showing up first in the Japanese market. The Nikkei first broke key support at 10,000 in mid-May.  It managed to trade just above that level for a few days in June, but then fell back and has traded below it ever since. The chart is very bearish.  U.S. investors need to worry about the Dow Industrials holding the same 10,000 level. The Dow is only slightly above this level in today's morning trade. The Dow Transportation Average is also on the verge of a significant breakdown. The Dow Industrials closing and staying below 10,000 at the same time that the Transportation Average gives a sell signal would be a strong negative for U.S. stocks. The S&P500, the Nasdaq, the small-cap Russell 2000 and the Dow Industrials have already given sell signals in July.

The other major development in Japan during its two lost decades was a massive bond bubble, which caused even long-term rates to approach zero. This same type of bubble is now developing globally, although the powers that be are denying that this is taking place. When massive government stimulus causes interest rates to drop, it is because of a liquidity trap - money does not flow into the real economy and so the economy doesn't significantly benefit from stimulus. Eventually a steep depression develops (what has prevented the depression phase so far in Japan is that its population had enough savings to pay for the last 20 years of stimulus - sort of like rich people who have no income, but still manage to live well by slowly selling off all of their assets). The only way out of this depression is to reignite economic growth with inflation. The Japanese have yet to figure out how to do this and U.S. monetary authorities are still reluctant to pursue this option.

Disclosure: No positions

Daryl Montgomery
Organizer, New York Investing meetup

This posting is editorial opinion. There is no intention to endorse the purchase or sale of any security.

1 comment:

Audrina said...

All information really useful.Thank you for bringing a well thought out and reasoned comment to the discussion.

Thanks for great educated.