With the yen strengthening ~12% against the US dollar and the Nikkei down ~10% YTD, it seems Haruhiko “Peter Pan” Kuroda is having a difficult time working his magic in favor of Abenomics. As the WSJ reports, Kuroda is under increasing pressure from the Prime Minister’s advisers to coordinate efforts to jumpstart the economy. Earlier this month, we first reported of the secretive meeting between Kuroda and Bernanke, where the former Fed Chairman urged Japan to unleash helicopter money.
With what little credibility it still has, the Bank of Japan is set to meet this week and likely agree on the size of yet another stimulus package for the economy. Prime Minister Abe’s main economic advisor Etsuro Honda recently detailed in an interview that the BOJ should increase its Qualitative and Quantitative Monetary Easing (QQE) program from ¥80 trillion to ¥90 trillion.
In addition, there has been growing speculation regarding coordinated fiscal and monetary stimulus. The fiscal stimulus efforts are not expected to be unveiled until August, according to the WSJ. Expectations point to a “multiyear program valued at ¥20 trillion ($188 billion), including direct spending, government loans and public-private financing.”
Perhaps more interesting, this time, Kuroda may have a difficult time convincing the 8 remaining members of the monetary board. As the Journal notes, “other BOJ officials are signaling a reluctance to act, underscoring questions about whether the central bank has reached the limits of its powers to revive Japan’s economy. They note that monetary policy is already extremely accommodative, with bond yields and interest rates at or near record lows, and express doubts that additional easing would make fiscal stimulus much more effective, according to people familiar with the central bank’s thinking.”
As core metrics and corporate expectations of inflation plummet, Kuroda’s promise to do “whatever it takes” to reach 2% inflation seems to be under significant threat. Doing nothing now would “amount to an admission that the BOJ’s monetary policy has reached its limits—it wants to move, but it can’t,” said Yuichi Kodama, chief economist at Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance.
Not unlike the Fed, it is clear that the BOJ is trapped in its own end game. As Kyle Bass recently told CNBC, "The textbooks aren't working for the academics ... I fear they're going to have to go into some sort of jubilee where the central bank just forgives the debt that they own...I don't know what happens to the yield curve then. The unconventional policies aren't working, so they're going to have to go to unconventional, unconventional policies next. I don't know where that takes them.”
The answer appears to be a one-way ticket to Neverland, where we can all believe in our hero, Peter Pan.