And there’s a bitter irony.
The Bank of Japan’s surprise Negative-Interest-Rate party for stocks set a new record: it lasted only two days.
Today a week ago, the Bank of Japan shocked markets into action. As the economy has deteriorated despite years of zero-interest-rate policy and Quantitative and Qualitative Easing (QQE) – a souped-up version of QE – the BOJ announced that it would cut one of its deposit rates from positive 0.1% to negative 0.1%.
Headlines screamed Japan had gone “negative,” that it had joined the NIRPs of Europe – the Eurozone countries, Switzerland, Sweden, and Denmark. But it was just another desperate move, a head fake, and once the dust would settle, the hot air would go out [read…QE in Japan Nears End: Daiwa Capital Markets].
Now the dust has settled and the hot air has gone out.
On Thursday, January 28, the day before the announcement, the Nikkei closed at 17,041 down 19% from its Abenomics peak of 20,953 in June 2015. Today, it closed even lower.
This situation is a bit of an embarrassment for the BOJ which has pushed Japanese asset managers of all kinds, including pension funds, particularly the Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF), the largest such pension fund in the word, to get off their conservative stance, sell their Japanese Government Bonds which made up the bulk or entirety of their portfolios, and buy risk assets with the proceeds.
This they did, near the peak of the Abenomics bubble. While the BOJ was eagerly mopping up JGBs, the asset managers bought mostly Japanese equities, but they also bought global equities and corporate bonds. And the mere prospect of all this buying, the front-running by hedge funds, and then the actual buying drove up Japanese stock prices in 2014 and early 2015. The bet seemed to work out. Wealth had been created out of nothing.
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