One shocking decline in Japan’s Nikkei 225 and suddenly the success of the country’s monetary and economic reforms – dubbed “Abenomics,” after the new prime minister, Shinzo Abe – are open for debate. Could it be that investors simply wanted to realize some profits?
Japan’s benchmark index has been on a tear, rising as much as 80 per cent since November, before sliding 7.3 per cent in overnight trading on Thursday. The setback followed disappointing Chinese economic data and confusion about where the Federal Reserve stands on reducing the amount of economic stimulus it is currently providing.
The Financial Times responded with this headline: “Japan slump tests faith in Abenomics run.” The Globe’s headline: “Tokyo market stumble saps gains of ‘Abenomics’.”
But with the Nikkei 225 rising 0.9 per cent in overnight trading on Friday, it is likely that the reason behind the previous day’s decline is far less troubling: Investors just wanted to take some money off the table after its best rally in years.
That’s the theory forwarded by strategists at Pavilion Global Markets, who estimated the amount of unrealized gains in various markets – and found that Japan’s market had by far the largest amount heading into the selloff, at more than 40 per cent.
That compares to unrealized gains of 10.4 per cent for the U.S. market, 21.6 per cent for the French market and 18.9 per cent for the U.K. market.
The strategists noted that a few decades ago, investors were far more willing to let their winning investments run before taking profits. For example, at the end of the 1970s and early 1980s, unrealized profits for the U.S. market often reached 30 per cent, they said. This patience ended with the bursting of the technology bubble in 2000.
“Are investors more fickle than they used to be? They may be,” the Pavilion strategists said in a note. “After all, two major bear markets in 10 years probably led many stockholders to become more protective of their gains.”
In the case of Japan’s Nikkei 225, the index has attempted four major rallies over the past two decade,s but remains more than 60 per cent below its record high in 1989 because each rally has sputtered. You can see why investors might be touch fickle now.