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Why did a Japanese stock rally run dry? BoFA weighs in

Published 2024/05/27, 06:18
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Investing.com-- A rally in Japan’s stock market stalled over the last two months, with the benchmark Nikkei 225 index remaining largely rangebound below record highs since March. 

Analysts at BoFA said the two biggest factors of this stalling were excessive weakness in the Japanese yen, coupled with somewhat disappointing earnings guidance from companies. 

The Nikkei 225 clocked a stellar rally in the first quarter, hitting a record high of 41,087.75 points as optimism over a recovery in Japanese consumption and strong corporate earnings drove buying into local stocks.

But BoFA analysts said that sustained weakness in the yen had somewhat dented this optimism, especially as the government now appeared to be intervening in foreign exchange markets to support the currency. 

“It appears that the yen’s depreciation may have exceeded the “critical point” where it benefits Japanese equities,” BoFA analysts wrote in a note. They said that fears of currency intervention had dented both domestic and external demand-oriented sectors. 

They also noted that interest rates needed to be raised further to curb yen depreciation- a trend that does not bode well for stock markets. 

Additionally, BoFA analysts said that concerns over softer guidance from Japanese companies- especially as the price hikes of last year chipped away at demand- had also dented sentiment towards Japanese markets. 

Recent gross domestic product data showed Japan’s economy shrank more than expected in the first quarter, amid sustained pressure from dwindling consumer spending. 

Market tone may still improve, long-term outlook brighter 

But BoFA analysts also said that sentiment towards Japanese stocks could improve going ahead in 2024, as long as companies still managed to clock earnings growth despite a conservative outlook. 

They said market conditions were expected to improve in July-September and October-December, and that the May-June period could potentially be a buying opportunity. 

BoFA analysts said that improving Japanese economic conditions- especially higher wages and persistent capital spending by businesses- could improve the outlook for stocks. 

They also expect larger investment houses to remain in Japanese equities in 2025. 

BoFA analysts said they continued to recommend a mix of blue-chip stocks and value stocks for exposure to Japanese stocks for the time being. 

An improvement in local economic conditions could also invite flows into sectors exposed to domestic demand, as well as the manufacturing sector.

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