Sayonara internal funding. In what we suspect will become a major issue (and warned in April of last year), Bloomberg reports that Japan’s public pension fund, the world’s largest, said it has been selling domestic government bonds as the number of people eligible for retirement payments increases. "Payouts are getting bigger than insurance revenue, so we need to sell Japanese government bonds to raise cash." It would appear the Ponzi has reached it's Tipping Point. Japan’s population is aging, and baby boomers born in the wake of World War II are beginning to reach 65 and eligible for pensions. That’s putting GPIF under pressure to sell JGBs so it can cover the increase in payouts.
The fund needs to raise about 8.87 trillion yen this fiscal year. GPIF is historically one of the biggest buyers of Japanese debt and held 71.9 trillion yen, or 63 percent of its assets, in domestic bonds as of March.
This leaves the biggest question "to whom will the pension fund sell?" After all it is all marginal and everyone just front-runs the biggest players (Governments and their Central-Bank caring internal funds). Now that the pensions funds are out, there is no more incentive to frontrun them - a la The Fed - which is summed up by the fund's manager "There isn’t much value in short-term notes as the BOJ’s massive asset purchases have made their yields extremely low."
From our April 2011 thoughts:
In the world of bonds, few things have perplexed investors as much as the ridiculously low (and going lower) rates of Japanese Government Bonds (JGBs), at last check yielding 1.22%. Granted "deflation" in Japan has long been quoted as the key driver for the ongoing decline in real and nominal rates, but in practical market terms it was always the fact that there was a buyer of first and last resort, usually this being either Japanese citizens directly or their proxy, the Japanese Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF) that kept yields in check and sliding.
This is far from just a JGB market problem. As Japan's retirees age and run down their wealth, Japan's policymakers will be forced to sell assets, including US Treasuries currently worth $750bn, or Y70 trillion "eight months" worth of domestic financing. At nearly 10% of the outstanding US Treasury stock, this might well precipitate other government funding crises (bearing in mind that the Japanese model is the argument buttressing confidence in Western government bonds in the face of deteriorating fiscal conditions). At the very least I'd expect it to trigger an international bond market rout scary enough to spook all other asset classes.
And As Kyle Bass has questioned numerous times, will 2010 be the beginning of the end of flawed Keynesian economics?
Maybe Japan's will be the crisis that wakes up the rest of the world and triggers some tough decisions on world-wide debt loads. Or maybe not - maybe the Greeks will beat them to it? or the Irish or the UK, or the US? Like banks in 2007, developed market governments today rely on sustained capital markets more than any time in their history. What if they shut?