We’re no experts on stock markets, but it does occur to us that the gyrations of Japan’s stock prices over the past six months may say less about the fundamentals of Japan’s economy than about the ups and downs of sentiment on all four of the major bourses in rich countries: the Nikkei 225, S&P 500, FTSE (London) and DAX (Frankfurt).
Japan-watchers got very excited because core private machinery orders in October were up 10% on a month-on-month basis, However, the monthly movements in orders have very large gyrations, even though the most volatile elements are removed from core orders. Bottom line: core orders could be a genuine “green shoot,” or one month’s surprising number may be misleading us.
Richard Katz's December issue of the Oriental Economist includes reports of Getting to 2% Real Growth Productivity Revolution, How Much Productivity Growth is Needed? Talk with MOF’s Top Official, Japan's Software Industry - What Went Wrong? Taking the Lead on Climate Change - New Energy Model for PRC, Development Aids Climate Goals, and Cheap Yen, Lots of Buying - Tourism Explodes.
One way to boost labor productivity, and thus potential growth, is to give each worker more tools, and this Japan has done. Over the long haul, however, it is ever more important to give workers “smarter” tools, e.g. moving from animal-pulled plows to tractors, from the stand-alone PC to the Internet. And it is important for companies to use those smarter tools up to their full potential. On this front, as we will detail today, Japan falls short.
We pointed out in our Nov. 16 Alert that Japan’s GDP has grown at a mere 0.6% annual pace in the nearly four years since early 2012,but our gut feeling is that the BOJ’s figure is too pessimistic, and the purpose of today’s Alert is to explore that question.
In our Alert of Nov. 18, we began looking at whether Japan’s potential growth is really as low as the 0.5% rate asserted by the Bank of Japan (BOJ)? Our gut feeling is that the BOJ is too pessimistic and that potential growth is more likely around 0.8%-0.9%, more or less the same as for the last quarter-century.
Japan’s productivity growth faces two challenges from the labor side: a demographic crunch in which each worker must finance the livelihood of more retirees and an erosion of the skills of the labor due to the rise of non-regular workers to 37% of the labor force.
Despite the claimed economic gains for Japan from TPP (more on that in another Alert), many in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) fear it could be a political loss: particularly in the 32 mostly rural single-seat districts that have tipped the balance in the last three Upper House elections.
Richard's second installment on how Japan's economic growth has been compared with other G7 countries.
Some economists claim that except for aging, Japan does not really have a problem with growth in GDP or productivity. And in this report Richard argues why that statement is incorrect.