Date: October 28, 2011
Reporting From: Tokyo, Japan
I can’t begin to describe how excited I am to be visiting Tokyo while the Japanese yen is at its all-time, historic high. My timing couldn’t possibly be worse.
For reasons that are completely incomprehensible, the yen is still viewed as a stable ‘safe haven’ currency despite four completely hopeless black marks:
1) Japan’s public debt puts other bankrupt nations to shame. As a percentage of GDP (225%), Japan’s debt is more than twice as bad as the United States.
2) The political situation in Japan is anything BUT stable. Japan has blown through 6 prime ministers and 9 finance ministers since 2006. And every one of them was a failure.
3) Social demographics are a ticking time bomb. Both life expectancy AND average age in Japan are higher than just about anywhere else on the planet… and the country has neither the work force nor the financial resources to support the massive waves of retirees that are coming.
4) Oh yeah, Japan’s economy hasn’t actually grown in two decades. No biggie.
Despite these obvious headwinds, though, the market is telling us that Japan is the safe place to be right now. And as a result, prices here are just plain stupid.