In recent issues of PROFIT CONFIDENTIAL, I have discussed on several occasions the renewed interest investors seem to have in Japanese stocks. From an investment point of view, Japan indeed looks like it is recovering from a decade-long slump.
Now, new data reveal that the recovery may be extending to the broader economy in Japan as well. Take a look at this:
— The Nikkei has risen to a five-year high
— Gross GDP rose 1.7%, on an annualized basis, last quarter
— Consumer spending has strengthened and is rising
— July to September housing starts rose 13.4%
— 97% of new condo units listed in September have sold
— Consumer confidence is up
— Toyota is expected to be the top global automaker next year
— Toyota is also getting ready to introduce its new luxury Lexus vehicle — a yacht — slated to cost in the US$850,000 range
— Companies are actually showing a shortage of workers, needed to keep up production to meet the demand for Japanese products
— Lending is up at banks, increasing domestic spending
Of course, there are still no guarantees to Japan’s economic comeback, but you can’t deny that the environment for growth is looking positive.
“The prospects for the [Japanese] economy to emerge from a decade of deflationary malaise have probably never been better,” says Paul Sheard, the chief economist at Lehman Brothers.
Peter Tasker, a Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein strategist, offers the following perspective, “Since 2003, thanks to a combination of pragmatism and good fortune, the financial landscape [in Japan] has changed out of all recognition. Confidence has returned to the banking system, and deflationary pressures have slowly leached away.”
Such institutional investment confidence in Japan’s economy has certainly not been all that common during recent years, and I think investors should be taking note. The signs, while not definitive, are strong that Japan could be rising from its doldrums.
For investors, these signs point to one thing — now could finally be a good time to be bullish on Japan.