Japan’s economy grew faster in the last quarter of 2017 than initially estimated, according to a revised estimate. The world’s third-largest economy has now expanded for eight straight quarters. This marks the longest run of growth in 28 years, since a 12-quarter expansion ended in 1989, a period which coincided with Japan’s economic bubble.
The economy of Japan primarily grew on solid global demand for technological products that created an investment boom in Japan’s auto, semiconductors and machinery sectors.
Meanwhile, analysts believe that it’s quite unlikely that the Bank of Japan (BoJ) will consider doing away with its monetary stimulus measures, as low wage growth is preventing people from spending more and hindering an acceleration in inflation. Moreover, economists believe that Japan is on track for stable growth and remain positive about the longer-term outlook. Given this scenario, this is a good time to invest in Japan’s stocks.
Japan’s GDP Increases for Eight Consecutive Quarters
Japan’s economy grew at an annualized 1.6% in the fourth quarter compared with the preliminary estimate of 0.5% and came in above economists’ expectations of 0.9%. The growth was primarily driven an upward revision in key business areas. This also reflects a 0.4% quarter-over-quarter increase, up from the initial reading of 0.1% and above of the 0.3% pace registered in the third quarter.
The upward revision was primarily due to faster-than-expected gains in capital expenditure, driven by robust investment in technology, and information and communications like smartphones and production machinery such as robots and labor-saving technology.
Capital expenditure increased 0.7%, marking the fifth straight quarter of growth. Another key factor that contributed to upward GDP revision was a buildup in private inventory, caused by rising stock of crude oil and natural gas, steel products, electronics parts and devices.
Moreover, private consumption, which accounts for almost one-third of GDP, grew 0.5% against a contraction of 0.6% in the previous quarter and in line with preliminary estimates. Given this scenario, policymakers are keen on creating a virtuous growth cycle, wherein higher wages can act as a stimulus to increased consumer spending, which will help in giving a boost to business investment and accelerate inflation.
Bank of Japan to Continue With Monetary Stimulus
Japan’s current expansionary phase is a brainchild of Abe’s fiscal and structural reforms and the BoJ’s long running monetary stimulus program. In fact, BoJ’s governor, Haruhiko Kuroda, on Mar 2 raised investor concerns when he, for the first time, flagged chances of an exit from monetary stimulus if the 2% inflation target was met in fiscal 2019, a remark he later backtracked from.
It seems unlikely that the BoJ will roll back stimulus measures anytime soon, as achieving the 2% target is likely to take longer. And inflation won’t accelerate so long wages and private consumption remain sluggish. However, the expansion in consumer spending is an exceptionally positive development. This indicates that consumer prices are likely to pick up in the near future. Moreover, economists believe that Japan’s growth is on solid ground and pickup in wages and improving quality of jobs are resulting in higher consumption levels, which in turn is fueling economic growth.
Japan’s economic Zen is a result of the stimulus measures taken by Abe’s government and the BoJ. These measures are bearing fruit and the economy is likely to continue expending over an extended period of time. Moreover, given that it will still take some time to achieve the 2% inflation target, BoJ is unlikely to roll back the stimulus measures, marking a likely indication of continued growth.
Adding stocks from Japan to your portfolio looks like a smart option at this point. However, picking winning stocks may be difficult.
This is where our VGM Score comes in. Here V stands for Value, G for Growth and M for Momentum and the score is a weighted combination of these three scores. Such a score allows you to eliminate the negative aspects of stocks and select winners. However, it is important to keep in mind that each Style Score will carry a different weight while arriving at a VGM Score.
We have narrowed down our search to the following stocks based on a good Zacks Rank and VGM Score.
Sony Corporation SNE designs, manufactures and sells consumer and industrial electronic equipment.
Sony has a VGM Score of A. The company has expected earnings growth of more than 100% for the current year. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for the current year has improved 17% over the last 30 days. The stock has a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.
Canon Inc. CAJ is a manufacturer and seller of professional and consumer imaging equipment and information systems.
Canon has a Zacks Rank #1 and a VGM Score of A. The company has expected earnings growth of 4.3% for the current year.
Komatsu Ltd. KMTUY is the world's second largest manufacturer of earthmoving and construction machines.
Komatsu has a Zacks Rank #1 and a VGM Score of B. The company has expected earnings growth of 70.3% for the current year. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for the current year has improved 12.2% over the last 30 days.
Tokyo Electron Ltd. TOELY is engaged in the manufacture and sale of electronic products for industrial uses.
Tokyo Electron has Zacks Rank #1 and a VGM Score of B. The company has expected earnings growth of 70.7% for the current year. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for the current year has improved 2.4% over the last 30 days.
Hitachi, Ltd. HTHIY is one of the world's leading global electronics companies.
Hitachi has a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) and a VGM Score of A. The company has expected earnings growth of 48.1% for the current year. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for the current year has improved 3.2% over the last 60 days.
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