Green Asia

Marketmind: Japanese stocks party like it’s 1990


A look at the day ahead in European and global markets from Monday.

It’s been a mixed start for most of Asia in this holiday-truncated week, though Japanese shares extended their bull streak to hit highs not seen since 1990.

The Nikkei is up more than 8 per cent so far this month, and almost 29 per cent for the year so far. The broader Topix is up 26 per cent on the year but still only trades at a price to earnings ratio of 14. That compares to 23 for the S&P 500 and almost 29 for the Nasdaq.

The entire market capitalisation of the Topix is 454 trillion yen ($3.03 trillion), yet Japanese companies held 555 trillion yen in internal reserves at the end of the financial year. Half of the listed Japanese companies trade at below book value, and in aggregate hold 20 per cent more cash than their market cap.

Corporate profits ex-financials reached a record high of 32 trillion yen in the April-June quarter and recent earnings results have shown the benefit of a weak yen and the return of some pricing power after decades of deflation.

Recent surveys show inflation expectations are finally picking up which may prompt households to invest some of the 1,000 trillion yen they currently keep in cash and deposits into equities and bonds.

Japan consumer price data for October are due Friday and are forecast to show core rates moved back up to 3.0 per cent, some way above the Bank of Japan’s 2 per cent target.

A strong wage round and early signs of more bumper pay awards for next year are stoking speculation the BOJ will finally unwind its uber-easy policy, and maybe even turn rates positive – a major boon for financial sector stocks.

China’s central bank kept its main rates steady on Monday as widely expected, but did set another firm fix for the yuan that saw the dollar slip under 7.2000 and fall more broadly.

There were media reports Israel, the United States and Hamas had reached a tentative agreement to free dozens of hostages in Gaza in exchange for a five-day pause in fighting, but no confirmation as yet.

S&P 500 and Nasdaq futures were trading a fraction softer on Monday, but are still up sharply on the year so far driven by huge gains in the seven mega-cap darlings.

Tech major Nvidia reports quarterly results on Tuesday, and all eyes will be on the state of demand for its AI related products.

The Black Friday sales will test the pulse of the consumer-driven U.S. economy this week, while the Thanksgiving holiday will make for thin trading.

The flow of U.S. economic data turns to a trickle this week, but minutes of the Federal Reserve’s last meeting will offer some colour on policy makers’ thinking as they held rates steady for a second time.

Markets are clearly vulnerable to any hawkish hints given they have priced in early and aggressive easing for 2024.

Futures imply zero chance of a further hike in December or next year, and imply a 30 per cent chance of an easing starting in March. Futures also imply around 100 basis points of cuts for 2024, up from 77 basis points before the benign October inflation report roiled markets.

Key developments that could influence markets on Monday:

– German PPI for October, EU construction output

– Appearances by Bank of France Governor de Galhau, Bank of Spain Governor de Cos, Bank of England Governor Bailey

– Fed’s Barkin appears on TV

($1 = 149.6200 yen)

(This story has been refiled to fix the spelling of “it’s” in the headline)

(By Wayne Cole; Editing by Christopher Cushing)


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