My Stock Book Debuts in Japan

I wrote last Wednesday and Friday about Japan’s recession. As bad as the situation was last week, it’s already grown worse. Last month alone, exports plunged 46%.

That’s the worst showing in ten years and the foreign media is abuzz about this being Japan’s biggest slump since World War II. Hong Kong-based Newedge Group senior strategist Kirby Daley said, “In my view the global economy is heading into a depression. So the prospect of a recovery in demand for Japan’s goods in the near- to mid-term are very low.”

The unemployment rate rose to a three-year high of 4.4% in December, is gunning for its post-World War II peak of 5.5%, and CLSA bank equity strategist Christopher Wood said it might get near 10%.

Into this maelstrom, who in their right mind would publish a stock book? Me! Shining as a bright reminder that the thing to do in the darkness is decide what you want to own and get it cheap, beams this fine new title from Toyo Keizai:

It’s generally a good idea to release stock books in bear markets because readers should do well from the low starting prices. Nonetheless, stock books sell better in bull markets.

Yet there’s a different tone in Japan this time than in times past. People here have shunned stocks for the bulk of the two-decade recession after watching the Nikkei 225 drop from 39,000 in December 1989 to its current 7,500. Seemingly from nowhere, there’s now an interest in stocks. Word on the street is that this is finally the big crack that will wash out the last remaining believers and allow a sustained rise to take hold. Usually, when people say that it means that they are clinging believers and that the premise being put into words makes it false. The old saw is that bull markets begin when nobody’s looking.

We’ll see, but in the meantime the budding interest has lit a fire under my book. It’s even on shelves here in Sano, the countryside, where such high-mindedness is thought to have no appeal to the population of housewives and truck drivers.

One should exercise caution when categorizing people, though. A truck driver said to me over the weekend, “Hey, saw your book at the store above Kasumi market. As I was reading it, I wished we had as many leveraged products here as you do in the states.”

I hope he continues wishing that.

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