Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Stanford Alumni Aims To Fix Japan's Economy

There has been a pretty significant shift in the leadership of Japan, with the controlling party being defeated for the first time in more than 50 years. How will this Ph.D. from Stanford (engineering) do at running Japan and fixing the economy? Kathy Lien tells us more about Mr. Hatoyama below.

The Japanese Yen strengthened across the board as investors cheer new leadership in Japan. After more than 50 years of unchallenged power, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has been finally defeated by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). The big question of if and when Prime Minister Aso will announce his resignation was answered almost immediately with Aso conceding defeat and confirming that he will resign as LDP head. Mr. Hatoyama, the current leader of the DPJ is expected to be confirmed as the new Prime Minister of Japan in approximately 2 weeks.

Who is Mr. Hatoyama?

Yukio Hatoyama has politics in his blood. His grandfather was the LDP’s first Prime Minister in 1955 and Hatoyama will be the country’s first non-LDP Prime Minister since 1955. He comes from a weathly family that has made their fortune in the industrial and political sectors. He is a fourth generation politician with a Ph.D in engineering from Stanford University. Although Hatoyama inherited his father’s LDP seat in 1986, he has been reelected to that seat seven times.

Some people in the Japanese political circle have called Hatoyama the “alien” as he can come off as eccentric and aloof. The Prime Minister role of Japan has been a difficult one for anyone to hold down for more than a year since Koizumi left office in 2006. As someone who can sound more like a teacher than a politician and has been criticized for being indecisive, Hatoyama has a tall task ahead of him.

The political landscape has changed dramatically for Japan with the DPJ’s victory. As the new party attempts to announce fresh measures aimed at stimulating the economy, there could be political turmoil. The DPJ does not have practical experience running the country and their goals are ambitious. Unlike the LDP whose initiatives have focused on business and public works, the DPJ’s initatives will focus on increasing disposable income for households. The party expects to pay for their new initiatives by cutting wasteful administration costs. Having previously criticized the Japanese economy for being overly dependent on exports, Hatoyama will be focusing heavily on boosting domestic demand.

Political Change Will Not Have a Lasting Impact on the Japanese Yen

However as happy as Japanese investors are about the change in leadership, the positive impact on the Japanese Yen could be limited. Long term trends in USD/JPY are determined by market fundamentals and overall risk appetite and not Japanese politics. With that in mind, USD/JPY is very weak. The sell-off in global equities and thin trading conditions ahead of the U.S. Labor Market holiday could drive the currency pair to a 6 month low of 91.75.

In terms of Hatoyama and the Democratic Party of Japan, it remains to be see whether they have what it takes to deliver on their promises of turning the economy around. If the global economy continues to recover, the DPJ could benefit from having the wind behind their sails. Either way, it will certainty be a daunting task for Hatoyama as the economy and his party’s legacy now rests on his shoulders.

This post has been republished from Kathy Lien's blog.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

No comments: