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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Is it time to re-invest in Japan ?

I don't think so, not after reading Bruce Kasting's piece in
Financial Sense, 'Betting on the Race to the Bottom',
excerpted below.

* * *

 As bad as Euroland appears, and as shaky as the USA looks, Japan looks like it might end up winning the race to the bottom.

There are two very big issues that Japan is confronting; energy and taxes. Both of these issues will come to a head over the next sixty days. I don’t see a soft landing.

Fourteen months ago Japan had 54 operating nukes. Today it has one. By the end of May, it will have none.

There are two significant consequences of the shutdowns: (A) soaring imports of expensive hydrocarbons (LNG, oil and coal), and (B) this summer, there will be as much as a 12% shortfall in electricity to to cool homes and run factories.

The shutdown of the nukes has already led to a major turnaround of Japan’s external trade position. In 2011 Japan reported its first annual trade deficit in over 30 years. The shortfall came to Y2.5T ($32B). In 2012 that number could be as large as $100B.

The shortage of “juice” this summer will cause cut backs in supply to big industry. As a result, industrial production will fall. Depending on the severity of the summer slump, Japan could face negative GDP growth for the full year. This will translate into more red ink in the national budget (already 10+% of GDP). More debt will have to be issued to cover the gap. Japan’s already insane Debt to GDP (230%) has nowhere to go but up.

Japan is leading the world into trouble as far as demographics go. The Social Security and medical costs of its aging population are exploding.

Unlike in the USA, most of the Japanese leaders have acknowledged that the country's position is un-sustainable.