Monday, February 11, 2013

Nikkei Opens Up Sharply following Finance Ministers Price Target

by Bill McBride on 2/11/2013 07:31:00 PM

Imagine Jack Lew (Treasury Secretary nominee) or Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke announcing a price target for the DOW or S&P500 ... that seems extremely unlikley.  But in Japan ...

From MarketWatch: Japan stocks rally on yen in post-holiday return

Japan stocks surged in early Tuesday trade, as investors returned from a three-day weekend to find the yen at yet another fresh multiyear low, with the Nikkei Stock Average jumping 2.5% to 11,432.29, and the Topix up 2%.
And from the Japan Times: Japan’s economic minister wants Nikkei to surge 17% to 13,000 by March
Economic and fiscal policy minister Akira Amari said Saturday the government will step up economic recovery efforts so that the benchmark Nikkei index jumps an additional 17 percent to 13,000 points by the end of March.

“It will be important to show our mettle and see the Nikkei reach the 13,000 mark by the end of the fiscal year (March 31),” Amari said in a speech.

The Nikkei 225 stock average, which last week climbed to its highest level since September 2008, finished at 11,153.16 on Friday.

“We want to continue taking (new) steps to help stock prices rise” further, Amari stressed ...
Felix Salmon likes the idea: When the finance minister targets stock prices
I like this move: it shows imagination, and the upside is much bigger than the downside. The worst that can happen is that it doesn’t work, and the stock market ends up doing what the stock market would have done anyway; the best that can happen is that it helps accelerate the broad recovery that everybody in Japan is hoping for this year.

What’s more, Amari is not the first policymaker to talk about targeting asset prices. Minneapolis Fed president Narayana Kocherlakota, for instance, said quite clearly in 2011 that stock prices “are really going to be a central ingredient in the recovery process”, adding:
In this kind of post financial crisis, post net worth driven recession, it makes sense to be thinking about asset value as a way to try to generate more stimulus than you do in a typical recession.
In other words, don’t look to government spending for stimulus: Japan, of course, has learned that lesson the hard way. Instead, simply goose the stock market instead.

There are risks to this approach: if it works too well, you create a bubble — and when a bubble bursts, that can hurt confidence much more than a rising stock market helped it. But for the time being, the Japanese stock market still looks cheap, both on an absolute basis and in terms of its p/e ratio. Now’s no time to worry about overheating. Instead, Japan’s fiscal and monetary policymakers are working together to try to make the country as bullish and successful as possible. I’d do the same thing, if I were them.
CR Note: I don't think this is a good policy idea ...  

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