Category Archives: BUSINESS

The Judoka (Judo Fighter)

Most Westerners come to Japan on short-term assignment. They stay two or three years, then leave. Few make Japan their permanent home. Fewer still start a business. This is the story of a young American, first lured to Japan by his love of judo, who stayed to build a leading healthcare services company. Mark Colby […]

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Fund managers hit highs but profits harder work from here


Nomura Research Institute’s annual inquiry into the business outlook for Japan’s asset management providers is always a good read. This year it is even more so and is here.

Based on NRI’s yearly surveys of firms’ perceptions of the priorities they need to pursue, plus other non-proprietary data series and the expertise of a five-person team led by Sadayuko Horie, the new study points to several simultaneous shifts.

The customer base of all three elements of the business – pension funds, financial institutions and retail — are today in the throes of change while fast-moving developments in equities investment environments are demanding rapid and most likely perpetual adaptations in investment processes.

Yet Japan’s asset management sector has been slow, compared with those elsewhere, to deploy the capabilities of artificial intelligence to deliver what clients needs.

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So far it has not suffered much from this failure. It ended the most recent financial year on 31 March 2016 with both assets under management and fee income hitting all-time highs of 1,856 trillion yen and 760 billion yen. respectively.

This climb came despite foreign asset holdings falling in value when translated into yen thanks to a 6.5% rise during the term in the yen against the US dollar. The current year will most probably see a reversal of that trend, flattering results.

And then?

Pension funds have been undergoing extensive restructuring since 2002. So far this has taken little asset management business off the table but it has seen the task of awarding mandates pass into the hands of more sophisticated sponsors who are already venturing into doing more of the job themselves.

Corporate and government-managed retirement schemes together form Japan’s largest body of institutional investors with over assets of over 305tr at 31 March 2016 – 7.2% lower than 12 months earlier. The …continue reading


Dow falters before 20,000

Despite a record breaking run by US stocks last week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average again failed to break the 20,000 level.

While the S&P 500 rose 1.7 percent to an all-time high of 2,276.98, the Dow hit an intra-day high of 19,999.63 on Friday but fell back to close at 19,963.8.

Bloomberg reported that the “Dow’s flirtation suggests to some analysts that more than chance is keeping a lid on its progress — that trading stops in the form of sell orders are pressuring the index each time it approaches 20,000.”

Indeed, Tom DeMark thinks that the stock market may be in a topping process. “It’s unanimous, every market, even the derivatives, they’re all identifying tops at this time, all upside projections,” he said.

Another Bloomberg report noted the large inflows into US stocks seen since 8 November and that this inflow is vulnerable to reversal.

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Will Australia have its own populist moment?

Chinese and Malaysian tourists take photographs of the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour, Australia (Photo: Reuters/David Gray).
Author: Editors, East Asia Forum
Australia’s prosperity has been underpinned by its openness to trade, investment and migration. Australia had the highest per capita income in the world at the beginning of the 20th century and in the subsequent century its income fell down the global rankings when it protected its economy, and rose as it opened up.
Moderate population growth through immigration helps achieve a sustainable demographic profile and expanding economy. Domestic savings cannot fuel the vast investment opportunities and foreign capital has made sectors from tourism to mining what they are today — global leaders.
As a small open economy, were Australia to embark on a course of economic isolation, of the kind embraced by many US and European voters in 2016, the consequences for the country would be uniquely catastrophic.
Is it possible that Australia could have its own ‘Trump moment’ and shoot itself in the foot?
The Australian economy has enjoyed more than a quarter of a century without a recession. Despite recent rising global iron ore, coal and gas prices, the commodities boom is over and the economy needs to transition away from heavy reliance on natural resource exports. During the commodities boom the already uncompetitive automobile industry, and other manufacturers, were decimated with the exchange rate appreciation associated with rising incomes across the nation.
The economic adjustments that took place and that are needed now are large and daunting. That almost certainly explains some of the political instability Australia has experienced despite a continuously expanding economy. Politically, the last 10 years have seen six changes of leadership, as well as the steady rise of smaller parties and independent politicians, many of whom tap into community anxiety, xenophobia and protectionist instincts. The ruling Liberal–National coalition garnered just 42.1 per cent of votes in last year’s election — a share that 10 …continue reading

Japan’s military remains the realm of men

Members of Japan's Self-Defence Force's honour guard at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo. (Photo: Reuters/Toru Hanai)

Authors: Scott N. Romaniuk, University of Trento and Tobias J. Burgers, Free University Berlin

Despite efforts to improve its gender balance, Japan’s military remains a man’s world. Though Japan is a non-traditional security actor, the policies and activities of its Self-Defense Forces (SDF) remain fundamentally discordant with this identity.

Prime Minister Abe’s 2013 call for women to ‘shine‘ broke with long-standing traditions in Japan as one of the world’s most unequal nations in terms of gender relations. Ranking 101st in gender equality, Japan is among the lowest third of the World Economic Forum’s index of 145 nations. In 2016, less than 6 per cent of Japan’s military personnel were female. By comparison, women are nearly 16 per cent of the United States’ military, and about 15 per cent in Canada and Australia.

But these percentages fail to illustrate many qualitative variables affecting gender integration and the socio-political and historical contexts of each country. Moreover, they are unable to capture the nuanced dynamics of female participation in the military.

By definition, ‘participation’ implies a shared relationship and the welcoming of (female) engagement. But in Japan, the relationship between women and the military is strongly driven by a repression of female abilities and the sexualisation, commodification and exploitation of women.

The kind of roles available to women in Japan won’t expand through participation in combat via the SDF. The need for women to show their ability in combat, a perceived man’s domain, implies a move to become more like men. Other than ‘The Tale of the Heike’ (Heike Monogatari), in which women are deified as samurai, women in wartime are still best known in Japan for having been ‘comfort women‘. Today, Japan’s contemporary gender equality efforts are owed mainly to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination …continue reading