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About i_godzuki

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  1. The new Honda Insight, lambasted by Clarkson on Sunday in the ST, is the best selling car in Japan, the first time for a hybrid. Toyota's new Prius has 80,000 preorders in Japan, a record. The point is more, though, that they cut production by more than sales fell in the first quarter, reduced inventories and can now gradually increase output.
  2. This quarter growth may return in Japan. The 1st quarter, awful as it sounds, involved a lot of giant companies stalling production to cut inventories after they were caught out at the end of last year. For instance, carmakers like Toyota, Honda, Nissan and so on were closing factories for days on end. Now, while output is still depressed, they're gradually increasing production again. On top of that, the last quarter was made worse by government dithering over stimulus. The measures are now passed, though, and will start to filter through. Even more important, as China and the U.S start to bottom out, or throw money at stuff, Japan stands to benefit. I think the full year GDP estimate is about -6% or so. Bad, but not the end of the world.
  3. I don't know if anyone mentioned this yet, but the Japan analysis in that article is embarrassingly poor. The rise and recent fall of the Japanese yen has nothing to do with measures by the Japanese government, save its dreadful performance. The yen shot up last year was part carry trade unwinding and part Japan's daft status as a safe haven. It became one of those silly self-fulfilling trends until everyone realised it was silly and since then the yen has come back to downturn to earth. Meanwhile, each time risk premium perceptions fall, the yen weakens a bit more and vice versa. That chap at the Telegraph has form on Japan. About a year ago he wrote a scaremongering and quite wrongheaded piece about Japanese banks hiding subrprime losses based on the suggestion that they hid stuff when Japan's bubble burst. ALl he would have had to do would have checked with any bank analyst in Tokyo to know that it was nonsense. Oh, and anyone who thinks Japan "failed" to deal with its crisis in the 1990s might want to check out Richard Koo's book, which offers an alternative perspective.
  4. In autos, all the Japanese carmakers cut production in Jan and Feb faster than the market falls. The upshot is that inventories are approaching normal levels again. Starting next month, production is expected to increase compared to the Jan-March period, but will still be way down on a year ago--so it's more about being less bad than anywhere approaching healthy. . At Mazda, for example, I read that they had been shutting its Japan plants on Fridays on top of bans on overtime. From next month, they'll reopen two Fridays a month and go to five-day weeks by the summer.
  5. Where in that story does it say Toyota is asking the government for money? It just says carmakers.
  6. I thought it only had one UK factory, in Derbyshire? I heard on the radio they're looking at ways to find new savings, which sounds very Toyota. I'd be shocked if they closed it permanently--with the pound so weak that plant could be quite useful if any when European demand stabilizes.
  7. Not really. Investors are criticising Japan's exporters for making too much in Japan and not outsourcing enough. Canon, for instance, makes over half of its products by value in Japan as does Sony. Incidentally, most big Japanese electronics makers had been opening new plants in Japan, especially battery plants. What they have been doing is using more Asia made parts in their products but that's not the same thing. I'd argue the problem with Japanese electronics brands is there are too many of them and they make too much. Panasonic, for instance, still makes bicycles (some of them are bloody good ones, mind) as does Sanyo. I don't get Sony, though. It's as if they don't know what they want to be. It's the same with cars. Toyota makes about half of its cars in Japan (in normal times). One of the reasons Toyota have tapped the family scion as the next President is believed to be because he will have the backing to make tough decisions such as closing domestic factories. On a different theme, today's export number is terrible but it's made worse because the automakers have massive cut production between Jan and March to clear inventories. For instance, they have had lots of non-production days. After April production, while still far off full capacity, is expected to rise a bit. Also, January is occasionally a trade deficit month even in better times, I think,. I guess this is because factories always close down for a week over New Year.
  8. They haven't had a 20 year recession. Until the recent recession slowdown Japan had its longest unbroken economic expansion since World War Two. Just because there was no housing boom it doesn't mean they were in recession. Their problem now is they are too dependent on exports and in two key sectors.
  9. I'm not sure all of these are bad things. Reasonable hotels, cheap restaurants (but often with decent food and good service) sound good to me. Lift attendants predate the recession--it's more a function of Japan's obsession with customer service. Agree about the baton wavers, though.
  10. I really doubt this. While China is undoubtedly going to make better and better cars, it still has a long way to go. In particular, environment technologies are likely to define the car industry which should give Japan an edge for quite a while longer, especially as they also lead in the all-important area of batteries. (BYD Auto&'s new hybrid is interesting, mind). Incidentally, I live on the Odakyu-sen (well, near it).
  11. When swapping into pounds, though, you have to bear in mind that the pound has halved against the yen in the last year or so. In Aug 2007, it would have been 111k, 175.5k and 275.5k.
  12. I own and live in a house in Tokyo, bought in 2006. No one really thinks about house prices here because the house depreciates quickly, partly because they usually get completely rebuilt every 30 years or so. Hence the focus on land prices. In my case, I bought it because (a) after 16 years of declines, prices seem to be bottoming out. Since then they rose a bit and are now falling. ( because I could get a fixed rate mortgage for 20 years at 3%. And © because the rent of my previous place which was just over half the size was 80% of my mortgage repayment. That doesn't take into account that renters have to pay a 13th month of rent every two years, while home owners get a tax rebate each year. In my case, the rebate so far has equal to six weeks worth of mortgage repayment. Renting also includes paying about six months rent up front, much of which is lost for ever. In other words, if you don't expect appreciation but want more space for your money, buying in Japan can make sense. That said the recent appartment mini-boom was quite daft.
  13. Apologies, it's late here and I just got back from drinks with a chap from Mitsubishi UFJ, who seemed bullish (about 2010!). The merger in 2003 was between Sumitomo and Wakashio Bank. Apparently, it wiped out a lot of stock losses (I don't know the details, though)/
  14. To be fair to BusinessWeek (not sure why). they had a cover story warning about toxic mortgages (the ARM stuff) a good six months or more before subprime broke. Edit: in fact, it was one year before in Sept. 2006: See here
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