Japanese Equities Still Have Plenty to Offer in 2019

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Japanese Equities Still Have Plenty to Offer in 2019

Industry Voice: Japanese equities retain the characteristics that can continue to work well in 2019.

Global investors' risk appetite was tested by various factors in 2018, including rising U.S. interest rates, a slowing Chinese economy, and a breakdown in U.S./China trade relations. Amid this backdrop, Japanese equities, along with most other major markets, ended the year in negative territory. The pullback also reflected a narrower market leadership, with fewer stocks posting positive returns as the near‑perfect conditions for equity markets in 2017 faded. 

However, we believe that Japanese equities retain the characteristics that can continue to work well in 2019, supported by a stable economy and positive, although slowing, global growth. Japanese equity valuations are below their long-term average, companies are delivering positive earnings growth, and structural market reforms should also prove supportive of rising corporate returns.

Slower, Stable Growth Remains Supportive

While the broad outlook remains favourable, headwinds are rising, and we anticipate a slowdown in global growth momentum in 2019. Although Japan is more than a cyclical story, the global economy remains a key influence on the equity market. The main risk from the global economy stems from the ongoing U.S./China trade dispute. Japan's manufacturing and technology sectors stand to lose in the event of any significant disruption to Asian supply chains.

Locally, the decision to increase the consumption tax in 2019—while welcome in terms of long-term stability—has the potential to undermine near-term growth. We anticipate further stimulus measures over the coming year as the government attempts to mitigate the impact of the sales tax hike.

More broadly, the Bank of Japan (BoJ) continues to affirm its accommodative policy stance. While inflation data have increased recently, current levels of inflation, and wage growth, remain shy of BoJ targets.

Favourable Equity Fundamentals

Despite the possibility of slower global growth in 2019, the fundamental equity story in Japan remains intact. Attractive relative valuations; solid earnings growth; and, perhaps most significantly, improvements in corporate governance give us reason to be positive about the outlook for Japanese equities in 2019.

Capital spending data also suggest that Japanese companies are using their cash more efficiently. This raises the prospect of Japanese equities being positively rerated in 2019 as a result of improved returns on equity. Share buyback activity and higher dividend payments are also expected to remain a feature of the market, providing near-term support for equity markets.

Abenomics and the Impact of Reforms

We are six years on from the launch of the "Abenomics" market and economic reform strategy, and the accomplishments have been considerable. Some of the key achievements, to date, include:
 

  • Unemployment is at a 25-year low, with a sharp rise in female participation in the workforce
  • The fiscal deficit has been halved
  • Deflationary risks have reduced
  • Corporate cash generation is at an all-time high
  • Corporate governance standards have been raised


The improvement in governance standards is particularly noteworthy. Corporate governance and stewardship codes have been implemented with speed and determination, designed to encourage a more robust and globally competitive business environment.

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Archibald Ciganer is the portfolio manager for the Japan Equity Strategy, having previously covered the telecom, transportation, utility, media and consumer sectors as a research analyst in the Equity Division.

 

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

This material is being furnished for general informational purposes only. The material does not constitute or undertake to give advice of any nature, including fiduciary investment advice, and prospective investors are recommended to seek independent legal, financial and tax advice before making any investment decision. T. Rowe Price group of companies including T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc. and/or its affiliates receive revenue from T. Rowe Price investment products and services. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. The value of an investment and any income from it can go down as well as up. Investors may get back less than the amount invested.

The material does not constitute a distribution, an offer, an invitation, a personal or general recommendation or solicitation to sell or buy any securities in any jurisdiction or to conduct any particular investment activity. The material has not been reviewed by any regulatory authority in any jurisdiction.

Information and opinions presented have been obtained or derived from sources believed to be reliable and current; however, we cannot guarantee the sources' accuracy or completeness. There is no guarantee that any forecasts made will come to pass. The views contained herein are as of the date noted on the material and are subject to change without notice; these views may differ from those of other T. Rowe Price group companies and/or associates. Under no circumstances should the material, in whole or in part, be copied or redistributed without consent from T. Rowe Price.

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