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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

G7: Why All the Pressure on Japan?

The Group of Seven industrialized nations is meeting in Essen, Germany, later this week, and despite the fact that there are a lot of people trying hard to suggest otherwise, it appears that the topic of global liquidity will be high on the agenda.

Now what I think it is interesting for people to think about is why this is. Why does the yen loom so large in people's thoughts (even though there is no evidence whatsoever of Japanese intervention in currency markets)? Why is the Yen at such low levels? And why does the BoJ find it so difficult to raise interest rates. If you can answer these questions you will be a long way along the road towards understanding the current global economic conjuncture, IMHO.

Just to help you out, of course, Claus Vistesen had a couple of pointers on the GEM blog (and here).

Basically Japanese economic growth looks extremely shaky right now. Yesterday Bloomberg reported that the leading index (which offers a broad based reading of future economic activity) fell for the second month running, and by a significant amount to a reading of only 25%. This does not look good. And at the same time unemployment continues to run at an extremely low level, in part for demographic reasons.

So what I can't understand is why people want to keep putting pressure on Japan (well I can understand, the carry trade and all that), but I can't understand why more people are not able to think about this situation, about why it is happening, and about what the long term implications are.

Simply pushing for the BoJ to raise interest rates is only going to push Japan back into deflation, and why anyone would want that outcome is beyond me.

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