Investors should buy assets in U.S. dollars and other currencies of strong developed nations because Japan may default within five years, said Takeshi Fujimaki, former adviser to billionaire investor George Soros.
“Japan is likely to default before Europe does, which could be in the next five years,” the president of Fujimaki Japan, an investment advising company in Tokyo, said in an interview yesterday. Japanese should hold foreign-currency products, such as those denominated in the greenback, Swiss franc, sterling, Australian and Canadian dollars, Fujimaki said.
Should the Japanese government default, the yen may weaken to 400-500 per dollar, and the yields on benchmark 10-year bonds could surge above 80 percent, according to Fujimaki. “I’m buying dollars in case of an emergency,” he said.
The yen rose 0.6 percent to 78.91 per dollar as of 6:07 a.m. in London from its close in New York yesterday. The currency touched the postwar high of 75.35 per dollar on Oct. 31 and has averaged about 103 over the past decade. Japan’s 10-year yields were little changed at 0.855 percent. Rates on June 4 dropped to 0.79 percent, the lowest since June 2003.
Five-year credit-default swaps that insure Japan’s debt from nonpayment were at 90.9 basis points yesterday, up from a seven-month low of 90.1 on March 27, according to CME Group Inc.’s CMA. The contracts pay the buyer face value in exchange for the underlying securities if a borrower fails to meet its debt agreements. A drop signals improving perceptions of creditworthiness, while an increase suggests the opposite.
Japan’s public borrowings, the world’s biggest, will balloon to 245.6 percent of its annual economic output in 2014, up from 67.3 percent in 1984, an estimate by the International Monetary Fund shows. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is struggling to gather support for his plan to double the 5 percent sales tax by 2015 to help reduce debt.
“The yen and the JGB market are in a bubble,” Fujimaki said. “With the gigantic debt Japan has accumulated, a thin needle, or even a gentle breeze may pop this. Events in Europe can possibly trigger this to blow up.”
Greeks vote in a general election on June 17 after balloting in May failed to produce a coalition government. The result may determine whether Greece abides by spending reductions imposed upon it to receive two international bailouts and stay in the euro. The euro currency bloc may break up in the next 5 to 10 years, Fujimaki said.
Default or Inflate
“There’s no way out of Japan’s crisis,” Fujimaki said. “The only option left for Japan is either default or print money into hyper-inflation.”
The Bank of Japan left the size of its asset-purchase fund unchanged at a policy meeting today. The central bank kept the fund at 40 trillion yen ($507 billion) and a credit lending program at 30 trillion yen, matching the forecasts of 13 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.
Fujimaki’s agreement with Soros Fund Management, once the world’s biggest hedge fund group, ended in October 2000. He has since written a book and lectured at Waseda University and Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo. He was born in 1950.