This month we discuss what the market may initially seek the most from the next Bank of Japan governor; we also look at Japan’s expanding outlays, with tax revenue and inflation in focus.
The official GDP growth target of “around 5%” unveiled at China’s annual National People’s Congress was lower than many external forecasts, and fiscal policy looks less accommodative relative to both market expectations and that of 2022. In our view, these conservative targets leave room for outperformance and likely reflect cautiousness over unexpected events and reluctance in overstimulating the economy.
The MSCI AC Asia ex Japan Index slumped 6.8% in US dollar terms, giving up its January gains. China’s reopening and peak interest rates euphoria in January were short-lived as hotter-than-expected economic indicator releases in the US raised the spectre of higher-for-longer interest rates.
Considered to be one of the greatest modern-day medical breakthroughs, robotic surgery is revolutionising surgical practices around the world. The breakthrough is particularly prominent in China, which could be the next growth frontier for surgical robotic companies.
The just-released 4Q CY22 data on aggregate corporate profits in Japan was somewhat mixed, as the overall corporate recurring pre-tax profit margin fell from its record high on a four quarter average. The non-financial service sector ticked up, but the manufacturing sector fell from its record high.
Current equity market conditions dictate that you choose your investment attire particularly carefully. In our view, buying profitless technology companies is like going up a Scottish mountain wearing flip-flops. You might get away with it, but the odds are not in your favour. Instead, we prefer the protection afforded by profits (and cash) generated today—not at some unspecified point in the future.
Currently, there is a wide variety of predictions for the BOJ’s actions, with some expecting imminent hawkish decisions based upon some of Governor-nominee Kazuo Ueda’s “anti-distortion” comments, but changes are more likely to be gradual and tentative assuming the global economy continues improving.
We maintain the view that global inflationary pressures may moderate further. We prefer Singapore, South Korea and Indonesia bonds. As for currencies, we favour the renminbi, the Singapore dollar and the Thai baht.
Growth prospects look to be improving—a sharp shift from late 2022 when the markets had strong conviction that a first half slowdown was to be followed by a better second half.
Asian equities made a strong start to 2023, with the MSCI AC Asia ex Japan Index returning 8.2% in US dollar (USD) terms in January, supported by a rebound in investor sentiment towards China.