Best of the Week
Most Popular
1.Spain Ignores Scotland Lesson as Catalan Independence Referendum Could Spark Civil War - Nadeem_Walayat
2.Used Car Buying From UK Dealer Top Tips, CarMotion.co.uk Real Customer Experience - N_Walayat
3.Spanish New Civil War Begins as Madrid Regime Storm Troopers Quell Catalan Independence Rebellion - Nadeem_Walayat
4.Virgin Media Broadband Down, Catastrophic UK Wide Failure! - Nadeem_Walayat
5.Are the US Markets setting up for an Early October Surprise? - Chris_Vermeulen
6.The Pension Storm Is Coming To Europe—It May Be The End Of Europe As We Know It -John_Mauldin
7.Stock Market Crash 2018; Will it Prove to be Another Buying Opportunity - Sol_Palha
8.The Profoundly Personal Impact Of The National Debt On Our Retirements - Dan_Amerman
9.Stock Market as Good as it Gets; Like 2000 With a Twist -Gary_Tanashian
10.1987 Stock Market Crash 30th Anniversary Greatest Investing Lesson Learned - Nadeem_Walayat
Last 7 days
“Great Rotation” Ahead; Will it Be Inflationary or Deflationary? - 21st Oct 17
The Trigger for Volatility, Rates and the Next Crisis - 21st Oct 17
Perks to Consider an Agent for Auto Insurance - 21st Oct 17
Emerging Megatrends Hurting Consumers - 21st Oct 17
A Catalyst of the Stock Market Bubble Bust - 21st Oct 17
Silver Stocks Comatose - 21st Oct 17
Stock Investors Ignore What May Be The Biggest Policy Error In History - 20th Oct 17
Gold Up 74% Since Last Stock Market Peak 10 Years Ago - 20th Oct 17
Labour Sheffield City Council Employs Army of Spy's to Track Down Tree Campaigners / Felling's Watchers - 20th Oct 17
Stock Market Calm Before The Storm - 20th Oct 17
GOLD Price Creates Bullish Higher Low - 20th Oct 17
Here’s the US’s Biggest Vulnerability in NAFTA Negotiations - 20th Oct 17
The Greatest Investing Lesson Learned from the 1987 Stock Market Crash - 20th Oct 17
Stock Market Time to Go All-in. Short, That Is - 19th Oct 17
How Gold Bullion Protects From Conflict And War - 19th Oct 17
Stock Market Super Cycle Wave C May Have Started - 19th Oct 17
Negative Expectations, Will the Stock Market Correct? - 19th Oct 17
Knowing the Factors Affect your Car Insurance Premium - 19th Oct 17
Getting Your Feet Wet In Crypto Currencies - 19th Oct 17
10 Years Ago Today a Stocks Bear Market Started - 19th Oct 17
1987 Stock Market Crash 30th Anniversary Greatest Investing Lesson Learned - 19th Oct 17
Virgin Media Broadband Down, Catastrophic UK Wide Failure! - 19th Oct 17
The Passive Investing Bubble May Trigger A Massive Exodus from Stocks - 18th Oct 17
Gold Is In A Dangerous Spot - 18th Oct 17
History Says Global Debt Levels Will Lead to Another Crisis - 18th Oct 17
Deflation Basics Series: The Quantity Theory of Money - 18th Oct 17
Attractive European Countries for Foreign Investors - 18th Oct 17
Financial Transcription Services – What investors should know about them - 18th Oct 17
Brexit UK Vulnerable As Gold Bar Exports Distort UK Trade Figures - 18th Oct 17
Surge in UK Race Hate Crimes, Micro-Racism, Sheffield, Millhouses Park, Black on Asian - 18th Oct 17
Comfortably Numb: Surviving the Assault on Silver - 17th Oct 17
Are Amey Street Tree Felling's Devaluing Sheffield House Prices? - 17th Oct 17
12 Real-Life Techniques That Will Make You a Better Trader Now - 17th Oct 17
Warren Buffett Predicting Dow One Million - Being Bold Or Overly Cautious? - 17th Oct 17
Globalization is Poverty - 17th Oct 17
Boomers Are Not Saving Enough for Retirement, Neither Is the Government - 16th Oct 17
Stock Market Trading Dow Theory - 16th Oct 17
Stocks Slightly Higher as They Set New Record Highs - 16th Oct 17
Why is Big Data is so Important for Casino Player Acquisition and Retention - 16th Oct 17
How Investors Can Play The Bitcoin Boom - 16th Oct 17
Who Will Be the Next Fed Chief - And Why It Matters  - 16th Oct 17
Stock Market Only Minor Top Ahead - 16th Oct 17
Precious Metals Sector is on Major Buy Signal - 16th Oct 17
Really Bad Ideas - The Fed Should Have And Defend An Inflation Target - 16th Oct 17
The Bullish Chartology for Gold - 15th Oct 17
Wikileaks Mocking US Government Over Bitcoin Shows Why There Is No Stopping Bitcoin - 15th Oct 17
How to Wipe Out Puerto Rico's Debt Without Hurting Bondholders - 15th Oct 17
Gold And Silver – Think Prices Are Manipulated? Look In The Mirror! - 15th Oct 17

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

3 Videos + 8 Charts = Opportunities You Need to See - Free

Tsunami Accelerates Japan's Economic Meltdown Driven by Debt and Demographics

Economics / Japan Economy Mar 22, 2011 - 09:32 AM GMT

By: James_Quinn

Economics

Diamond Rated - Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleThe linear thinkers that dominate the mainstream media and the halls of power in Washington D.C. are assessing the series of disasters in Japan without connecting the dots of history. Their ideological desire to convince people that things will go back to normal in short order flies in the face of the facts. It makes me wonder whether these supposed thought leaders lack true intelligence or whether their ideological biases convince them to lie. At the end of the day it comes down to wealth, power and control. If those in power were to tell the truth about the true consequences of demographics, debt, disasters, and devaluation, their subjects would revolt and toss them out. Before the multiple disasters struck Japan last week, the sun was already setting on this empire. The recent tragic events will accelerate that descent.  


 

Japanese Beetle Meet Windshield

Smart financial minds have been expecting a Japanese economic tsunami for the last few years. John Mauldin described Japan's predicament in early 2010:

"I refer to Japan as a bug in search of a windshield. I am not so sure about the timing, however, as the economic and fiscal insanity that is Japan may be able to go on for longer than many think possible. But to me it is not a question of whether there will be a crisis, but when there will be one. This year? 2011? 2012? I doubt Japan makes it to the middle of the decade with a very serious and sad day of reckoning.

The downside to the continuation of running massive deficits is that when the break does come, it will be all the more painful and difficult to deal with as the debt mounts. If there is an upside, it is for the rest of the world to see what can happen to a developed country like Japan when massive deficits are allowed to pile up one after another. It will be a morality play writ large upon the walls, which cannot be dismissed."

Ambrose Pierce-Pritchard expected a 9.0 debt earthquake to strike Japan in 2010:

"Weak sovereigns will buckle. The shocker will be Japan, our Weimar-in-waiting. This is the year when Tokyo finds it can no longer borrow at 1% from a captive bond market, and when it must foot the bill for all those fiscal packages that seemed such a good idea at the time. Every auction of JGBs will be a news event as the public debt punches above 225% of GDP. Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii will become as familiar as a rock star.

Once the dam breaks, debt service costs will tear the budget to pieces. The Bank of Japan will pull the emergency lever on QE. The country will flip from deflation to incipient hyperinflation. The yen will fall out of bed, outdoing China's yuan in the beggar-thy-neighbor race to the bottom."

Mr. Pritchard was either wrong or early, depending upon your point of view.  

Japan can still borrow for 10 years at 1%. Despite the highest government debt as a percentage of GDP on the planet at 225%, Japan has not felt the wrath of the bond vigilantes. Not only did the Yen not fall out of bed, but it soared to a post-war high against the USD last week after the earthquake/tsunami. Investors drove the value of the yen higher, anticipating a huge rebuilding program in Japan. Japanese financial institutions would need to convert foreign assets into yen to pay for damage claims and construction expenses, a process that would strengthen the currency. In anticipation, investors piled into yen, helping drive up its value. Central banks across the globe intervened and weakened the currency, for the time being. When the world comes to its senses, the Yen will weaken on its own.

Japanese Yen (JPY) to 1 US Dollar (USD)

Debt & Demographics

Japan is a one trick pony that just broke two legs and is waiting to be put down. They have experienced a two decade long recession. Their stock market is still 70% below its 1990 peak. They have no natural resources. They allow virtually no immigration. And their population is in a death spiral. The one and only thing they have going for them is their phenomenal ability to manufacture high quality products and export them to the rest of the world. The earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan severely damaged their just in time manufacturing machine. A surging yen would destroy their export machine by making their products more expensive. Hundreds of high tech Toyota, Honda, and Sony factories are shut. Four hundred miles of ports and harbors have been wiped out. There are rolling blackouts, with one million households without electricity. Over 500,000 people are still homeless.

http://www.marketoracle.co.uk/images/2010/Sep/japan-debt-16-1.gif

The short-term impact of this disaster will push Japan into recession. The rebuilding efforts over the coming years will create a positive GDP figure, but will not do anything to benefit Japan over the long haul. The billions designated to rebuild will be money not invested in a more beneficial manner. The linear thinkers conclude that over the long-term Japan will be OK. These people are ignoring the double D's - Debt and Demographics. When Japan entered its two decades of recession and experienced the Kobe earthquake in 1995, its government debt stood at 52% of GDP. Today it stands at 225% of GDP. Twenty one years ago, the Japanese population was still relatively young, with only 12% of the population over 65 years old. The population of Japan peaked in 2004 and now is in relentless decline. Over 23% of the population is over 65 and the median age is 45 years old. For comparison, the median age in the U.S. is 37 years old, with only 13% over 65. The projection portion of the chart below paints a picture of death. The population of Japan is aging rapidly and will decline by 4.4 million, or 3.5% in the next ten years. 

Table 2.2 Trends in Population

The question I pose to the mainstream thinkers is, "How can a country with a rapidly aging population and nearly one quarter of its population over 65 years old generate the necessary dynamic enthusiasm for rebuilding a shattered country?" Youthful enthusiasm and hope for a brighter future is essential to any enormous rebuilding effort. Japan does not have it in them. News reports already indicate a lethargic and seemingly insufficient response by emergency workers. The devastation seems to have overwhelmed this aging country. The psychological impact of this type of natural disaster will likely have two phases. Psychology professor Magda Osman describes the expected human response:

"After a disaster, typically small communities become incredibly co-operative and pull together to help each other and start the rebuilding process. There's an immediate response where people start to take control of the situation, begin to deal with it and assess and respond to the devastation around them. The problem is that we aren't very good at calculating the long-term effects of disasters. After about two months of re-building and cleaning up we tend to experience a second major slump when we realize the full severity of the situation in the longer term. This is what we need to be wary of because this triggers severe depression."

This would be the normal response of a traumatized populace. An aged populace is likely to experience worse depression and not bounce back from this tragedy. Japan is still the 10th most populated country on earth, with the 3rd largest economy. China just passed Japan to become the 2nd biggest economy in the world. India will pass Japan by 2012.

Table 2.1 Countries with a Large Population (2009)

Youthful countries across the world are gaining on Japan. The wisdom of the elderly doesn't cut it in a global economy. Global competition is cutthroat. China, India and the other emerging Asian countries will take advantage of Japan's misfortune by filling the hole left by Japanese manufacturers. The short-term issues of power, supply lines, and reconstruction are minor when compared to a mass die off of the Japanese population that will result in a population that is 25% smaller in 2050 than it is today. Demographics are a *****. 

Figure 2.4 Proportion of Elderly Population by Country (Aged 65 years and over)

With the amount of debt hanging over the Japanese empire, it might be a good strategy to commit hari-kari. The non-thinking pundits on CNBC contend that since Japan hasn't had any detrimental effects from running their debt to 225% of GDP, running it to 300% won't be a problem. Reinhart and Rogoff studies concluded that once a country breaches the 90% level, growth slows and a debt crisis is likely to ensue. Japan has been stuck in a 20 year recession, as they chose Keynesian shovel ready projects, quantitative easing, currency manipulation, and covering up the true financial condition of its banks over accepting the consequences of a debt bubble. Remind you of anyone? The result is their real GDP is lower today than it was in 1995. The Paul Krugmans of the world would contend that they just didn't spend enough.

 

The only reason Japan has not collapsed is due to its homogeneous population willing to buy virtually all of the debt issued by its government for the last twenty years and its prodigious ability to produce high quality products that the rest of the world wants. Japan has maintained a consistent trade surplus, and its government debt has been held mainly by its own people, with 95% of Japanese government bonds in the possession of Japanese, meaning the country was able to finance itself without depending upon fickle foreign investors who might prefer a return greater than 1%. This ain't 1990. The savings rate of the Japanese population had already declined from 14% in 1990 to 2% by 2008. In a recent article, Mike Shedlock explained the situation prior to the recent devastation:

"The Government Pension Investment Fund, which oversees 117.6 trillion yen ($1.4 trillion), in September forecast that it would sell 4 trillion yen in assets in the business year ending March 31 to fund payouts. Sales by the fund, which helps oversee public pension funds for Japan’s 37 million retirees, come as the first of Japan’s baby boomers is set to turn 65 in 2012, making them eligible for pension payments. Japan choices are to default on its debt, print money to fund interest on the debt, raise taxes effectively robbing savers of their money, or undertake huge spending cuts. The dilemma stems from years of Keynesian and Monetarist stupidity."

The new tragedy will just accelerate the conversion of Japanese savers into forced spenders. Millions of Japanese savers will be forced to spend their savings on survival, as many have lost their jobs and businesses due to the monumental damage to northern Japan.

http://www.marketoracle.co.uk/images/2010/Sep/japan-debt-16-4.gif

Setting Sun - Race to the Bottom

Traders figured out what must happen over the coming years. A large swath of Japanese insurers and companies will begin repatriating assets held in other currencies to begin the rebuilding effort at home, driving the value of the Yen higher. At a time of crisis a stronger Yen would severely damage Japan's export based economy even further. Therefore, Central Banks around the world jointly intervened. The Bank of Japan spent Y2 trillion ($25 billion), while central banks across Europe contributed $5 billion and the Federal Reserve spent $600 million to push down the yen on Friday. The Bank of Japan is doing what they do best - printing money. Quantitative easing is an art form perfected by all Central Banks across the globe. Every disaster over the last twenty years, whether man made (wars, internet collapse, housing collapse, debt meltdown) or caused by nature, are met with the exact same solution - PRINT MONEY.

This method works until it doesn't work. Japan's central bank cannot reverse the demographics. From this point forward the population of Japan will be net sellers of government debt. Japanese insurance companies will be on the hook for $33 billion in claims. They will need to sell government bonds in order to make those payments. The World Bank has estimated the cost of rebuilding to be $235 billion. The government will need to borrow this money. At least 30% of its energy needs are off-line. It already imports 95% of its oil and coal. They will need to increase energy imports to make up for the nuclear energy shortage. Its positive trade balance was already in decline.  The clueless CNBC pundits can drone on about how this natural disaster will be good for the Japanese economy because of the substantial rebuilding program, but they are dead wrong. Japan is trapped, with no way out. They will need to issue hundreds of billions in new debt, which cannot be bought by its citizens, pension funds, or insurance companies. How many foreign investors will buy a 10 Year Japanese government bond paying 1%, knowing that Japan wants to weaken its currency? NONE. The only choices are to raise interest rates to attract buyers or print more money. With an already suffocating level of debt, they can't allow interest rates to rise. They would choke on the interest.

The Bank of Japan will follow the same script as Ben Bernanke. They will print new Yen and buy the newly issued debt. What an original idea. Japan is caught in a debt stranglehold and demographic nightmare. Their currency will ultimately collapse like a nuclear reactor after a tsunami. When Japan defaults on their debt, the pain will be intense, as they will be throwing their own aged population under the bus. America, on the other hand, will throw the whole world under the bus when we default.

The Japanese own $886 billion of US Treasuries and have bought $256 billion of our debt since October 2008. Timmy Geithner will need to issue $1.5 trillion of new bonds per year. Japan will no longer be a buyer. They will be a seller. This will put upward pressure on U.S. interest rates. Japan's reconstruction needs will put pressure on commodity and energy prices. Production and supply problems for Japanese parts and goods are already creating problems for GM and other car companies in the U.S. Lack of supply leads to higher prices. The great earthquake/tsunami/nuclear meltdown of 2011 will result in more quantitative easing in Japan and the U.S. This will result in even more inflation than we are experiencing today. Once the inflation genie is out of the bottle, the race to the bottom will accelerate. Gold will decide who wins the race. It has been a neck and neck race since 2001. I'm not sure it is a race anyone wants to win. But the destination is certain.

 

"The endeavors to expand the quantity of money in circulation either in order to increase the government’s capacity to spend or in order to bring about a temporary lowering of the rate of interest disintegrate all currency matters and derange economic calculation." - Ludwig von Mises

Join me at www.TheBurningPlatform.com to discuss truth and the future of our country.

By James Quinn

quinnadvisors@comcast.net

James Quinn is a senior director of strategic planning for a major university. James has held financial positions with a retailer, homebuilder and university in his 22-year career. Those positions included treasurer, controller, and head of strategic planning. He is married with three boys and is writing these articles because he cares about their future. He earned a BS in accounting from Drexel University and an MBA from Villanova University. He is a certified public accountant and a certified cash manager.

These articles reflect the personal views of James Quinn. They do not necessarily represent the views of his employer, and are not sponsored or endorsed by his employer.

© 2011 Copyright James Quinn - All Rights Reserved
Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.

James Quinn Archive

© 2005-2017 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Comments

Berrie Mengerink
05 Apr 11, 16:33
Thanks

Hi James,

Thank you for all the articles and information, very nice, very good!!

Regards

Berrie


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

Catching a Falling Financial Knife