Thursday, October 23, 2014

Read/watch list for 2014-10-23

Some items of interest:

- According to the Nikkei Shimbun, BOJ expansion of its balance sheet have made the market for national debt so barren the Ministry of Finance has offered its first short-term debt with a negative interest rate (Link - J). The appropriate comment at this point is, "Yikes!"

- Tobias Harris does a turn on television offering a sober view of the current turmoil in the Diet(Link - J). His view that Abe Shinzo faces a very different political environment in 2014 than he did in 2007. Abe is the quite happy accidental beneficiary of the collapse of a 30-year national program to oust the Liberal Democratic Party. Tossing the LDP bums out, and installing a Democratic Party of Japan-led government in 2009 did not deliver the paradise of responsive and responsible government the Japanese public had hoped for, however. Now the LDP is rivaled in public opinion polls only by the "I don't support anybody/I don't care/I don't like making decisions so please leave me alone" party -- meaning that even if the Second Abe Cabinet enters the traditional death slide of a year of steadily declining cabinet support ratings to 20%, followed by Abe's announcement of his resignation, the only person who can replace Abe will be a member of the LDP (the current likeliest candidates being Ishiba Shigeru, Ishiba Shigeru and possibly Ishiba Shigeru).

- Dr. Adam Posen delivers a very upbeat assessment of Abenomics starting at the 39:50 mark of this PIIE video of its Global Economic Prospects session of 2 October 2014 (Link - video)For the record, 710,000 more women were in the labor force as of August 2014 (the most recent month for which the government has data) than were in the labor force in January 2013, Abe's first full month in office. During that span 230,300 men also entered the labor force -- though that number only returns the number of men in the labor force to the point where it was in February 2013.

- Professor Eugene Gholz, whom I met in Tokyo earlier this year, has produced an easy-to-read paper for the Council on Foreign Relations explaining why Japanese policy makers should continue to remain alert to but should stop making paranoid noises about global rare earth/rare metals supplies. (Link)

- Kasai Yoshiyuki, a Shisaku favorite and the purported maestro of the Second Coming of Abe Shinzo last week saw his grand boondoggle receive the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (Link). Yesterday, he made his pitch to extend his levitating empire overseas (Link) -- not surprising since the CEO of JR Central has admitted that the Tokyo-Nagoya maglev line will never turn a profit. (Link

Later - Jonathan Soble, formerly the Tokyo bureau chief of the Financial Times, starts out with a bang in his new posting as business reporter for The New York Times with the long list of former American politicians Mr. Kasai has acquired for the new North American Wing of his collection. An absolutely precious photo accompanies the story. (Link)

Hope all you shareholders of JR Central are happy with the way the chairman emeritus Kasai is spending your money.

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