1. Japan can defend its interest rate line by printing more money but at expense of the yen
2. Japan can defend the yen by hiking rates or by selling its reserves until reserves run out
Japan has a nasty choice
I received this email reply to the above Tweet from Michael Pettis.
“Looks right. I’d add that by weakening the yen, Japan seems always to support their exporters at the expense of their consumers, which may be why domestic demand is always so weak and growth so sluggish.“
The smart thing for Japan would be to hike rates and let the Yen strengthen.
Instead, if they stay on the same path, the yen might blow up.
All of Japan’s efforts to achieve growth by inflation and exports have backfired. One might think that after 40 years they would try something else.
The single worst choice for Japan would be to blow its currency reserves in an attempt to defend both the Yen and its interest rate peg.
The premise for Chie Hayakawa’s film, “Plan 75,” is shocking: a government push to euthanize the elderly. In a rapidly aging society, some also wonder: Is the movie prescient?
TOKYO — The Japanese film director Chie Hayakawa was germinating the idea for a screenplay when she decided to test out her premise on elderly friends of her mother and other acquaintances. Her question: If the government sponsored a euthanasia program for people 75 and over, would you consent to it?
Close to one-third of the country’s population is 65 or older, and Japan has more centenarians per capita than any other nation. One out of five people over 65 in Japan live alone, and the country has the highest proportion of people suffering from dementia. With a rapidly declining population, the government faces potential pension shortfalls and questions about how the nation will care for its longest-living citizens.
Aging politicians dominate government, and the Japanese media emphasizes rosy stories about happily aging fashion gurus or retail accommodations for older customers. But for Ms. Hayakawa, it was not a stretch to imagine a world in which the oldest citizens would be cast aside in a bureaucratic process — a strain of thought she said could already be found in Japan.
Euthanasia is illegal in the country, but it occasionally arises in grisly criminal contexts. In 2016, a man killed 19 people in their sleep at a center for people with disabilities outside Tokyo, claiming that such people should be euthanized because they “have extreme difficulty living at home or being active in society.”
He was thought to be the oldest man in Tokyo – but when officials went to congratulate Sogen Kato on his 111th birthday, they uncovered mummified skeletal remains lying in his bed.
Mr Kato may have been dead for 30 years according to Japanese authorities.
They grew suspicious when they went to honour Mr Kato at his address in Adachi ward, but his granddaughter told them he “doesn’t want to see anybody”.
Police are now investigating the family on possible fraud charges.
But the family had received 9.5 million yen ($109,000: £70,000) in widower’s pension payments via Mr Kato’s bank account since his wife died six years ago, and some of the money had recently been withdrawn.
Japanese contains a separate set of numerals used in legal and financial documents to curb fraud by preventing someone from adding strokes to previously written numbers (e.g. turning a 1 into a 2, or changing 3 to a 5).
The estimated number of people aged 65 or older in Japan stood at a record high of 36.4 million as of Wednesday, an increase of 220,000 from a year before, the internal affairs ministry said Sunday.
The share of those aged adults in the nation’s total population rose to a record 29.1%, the highest among 201 countries and regions across the world.
Older men totaled 15.83 million, or 26% of the total male population. There were 20.57 million elderly women, or 32% of the female population.
The ministry released the data ahead of Respect for the Aged Day on Monday, a national holiday.
In Japan, the share of aged people has been rising since 1950. The figure is expected to rise to as high as 35.3% in 2040 when the so-called second baby-boomer generation, or people born in the early 1970s, reaches the age of 65 or older, according to the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research.
The received wisdom among economists is that the US’s historical low interests rates are driven by high savings by aging boomers who are getting ready for, or in, retirement.
The idea is boomers have salted away so much cash that banks don’t bid for their savings, so interest rates fall.
But at last week’s Jackson Hole conference, a trio of economists presented a very different explanation for low interest, one that better fits the facts.
So we can’t really say that low interest rates are being caused by an aging population with high retirement savings, because while the US population is aging, it does not have high savings. Quite the contrary.
And, as Robert Armstrong points out in his analysis of the paper for the Financial Times, even in places like Japan, with large cohorts of retirees and near-retirees who do have adequate savings, rates are scraping bottom.
So why are rates so low? Well, the paper says it is being caused by high levels of savings — just not aging boomers’ savings. Rather, it’s the savings of the ultra-wealthy, the 1%, who are sitting on mountains of unproductive capital, chasing returns.
The world’s largest pension fund had charted a course for sustainable investing, but the Government Pension Investment Fund, Tokyo, is now treading water.
After taking the helm of the world’s biggest pension fund as CIO in 2015, Hiromichi Mizuno sought to turn GPIF into a fund that — as one Harvard Business Review article put it — tried to “change the world” through its approach to environmental, social and governance investing.
However, the $1.63 trillion fund — constrained by stricter legal restraints than its peers — has largely been quiet on impact investing since Mr. Mizuno was succeeded in April 2020 by Eiji Ueda. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the global push toward ESG themes and GPIF’s peers around the world have cut fossil-fuel investments and threatened to pull funds from firms that fail to meet ethical standards.
At least four recent studies have identified coronaviruses closely related to the pandemic strain in bats and pangolins in Southeast Asia and Japan, a sign that these pathogens are more widespread than previously known and that there was ample opportunity for the virus to evolve.
Another new study suggests that a change in a single amino acid in a key component of the virus enabled or at least helped the virus become infectious in humans. Amino acids are organic compounds that form proteins.
Public-health officials say it is critical to identify the origin of the pandemic to take steps to avert future outbreaks, though it may take years to do so. These latest pieces of research add to evidence that the virus, called SARS-CoV-2, likely originated in bats and then evolved naturally to infect humans, possibly through an intermediary animal.
Absent that nightmare scenario—and most prognosticators believe science can vanquish any of COVID-19’s shape-shifting—the conventional Wall Street wisdom is for better days ahead on both the health and the economics fronts. And since escalating rates are co-dependent on an improving economy, a sunny thesis appears pretty solid.
Historically speaking, low rates like today’s are an aberration. Thus, at some point, it’s reasonable to assume they will return to normal. Or at least to higher than now, to a degree. A new normal that’s hardly towering.
Throughout history, it was typical to see both birth and death rates at higher levels. But today, in most parts of the world, women are having fewer children, and innovations in healthcare and technology mean we are all living longer. The average person today lives to 72.6 years old, while the rate of births per woman has fallen to 2.5.
These trends have drastically altered the demographics of mature economies, resulting in a much older population. In many developing countries, however, births still outweigh deaths, resulting in populations that skew younger.
This visualization uses data from the World Bank to examine the countries with the highest shares of old and young people.
In Japan, a nation that has long struggled with one of the highest suicide rates in the world, the emotional strain is manifesting itself in a disturbing trend. For the first time in a little over a decade, the number of those who took their own lives last year exceeded the previous year, reversing years of work to curb a stubbornly high number of self-inflicted deaths.
According to the health ministry’s preliminary data, 20,919 people died by suicide in 2020, up 3.7% from 2019, compared with 3,459 coronavirus-related deaths in the same period.
While men in Japan are typically more likely to die by suicide, last year saw the number of women killing themselves grow by 885 to 6,976, while suicides among men fell slightly. Meanwhile, figures for those in their 20s and those age 19 or younger grew by 17% and 14%, respectively, according to a tally by the Nikkei business daily, providing insight into which groups are the most vulnerable.