Veteran fears ‘beginning of the end’ for Japan as bond market buckles
Global markets face a witches’ brew of new risks as Japan’s monetary adventure wobbles, China slows further and the US Fed prepares to shut the spigot of dollar liquidity.
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
23 May 2013
Yields on 10-year Japanese bonds (JGBs) have doubled in a month and spiked dramatically to 1pc on Thursday, triggering a 7.3pc crash in the Nikkei stock index. It was the biggest one-day fall since the tsunami two years ago, comparable with wild moves seen at the height of the Asian crisis in 1998.
The contagion effect set off a retreat from stocks across the world, though Wall Street later pared losses. The iTraxx Crossover or “fear gauge” for corporate bonds jumped 25 points to 392.
The Bank of Japan (BoJ) intervened with $20bn (£13bn) to drive down yields again but the failure to ensure an orderly debt market has started to rattle investors. Banks, pension funds and insurers appear to be dumping JGBs for fear of being caught on the wrong side of a bond rout.
Richard Koo from Nomura, an expert on Japan’s Lost Decade, said the sell-off in recent days has shown that the BoJ may not be able to hold down yields “no matter how many bonds it buys”. This could lead to a “loss of faith in the Japanese government” and the “beginning of the end” for its economy, if handled badly.
The drama in Tokyo came amid fresh signs that China is struggling to manage the hangover from its four-year lending boom, which has pushed credit to 200pc of GDP and spawned a shadow banking system.