Subprime Soothsayer Bass Says Japan to Default on Debt as Economy Unravels
Japan will be forced to default on its debt, Greece’s economy is “done” and Iceland is worse off than Greece, said J. Kyle Bass, the head of Dallas-based Hayman Advisors LP who made $500 million in 2007 on the U.S. subprime collapse.
Nations around the world will be unable to repay their debt and financial austerity in a country such as Ireland is “too late,” Bass said today at the Value Investing Congress in New York.
Japan’s economy may unravel in the next two to three years, and its interest payments will exceed revenue, he said. “Japan can’t fund itself internally,” Bass said.
The country’s year-over-year gross domestic product was 2.4 percent as of June 30. It has the world’s largest public debt, approaching 200 percent of its GDP amid a 5.1 percent jobless rate. Consumer price fell by one percent in September and has been negative each month since May 2009, as deflation has taken hold.
Pricing on Japanese interest-rate swaps is the best he’s ever seen, Bass said. Investors could make 50 to 100 times their capital betting on them, he said, calling them a lottery ticket on Japan’s economy.
Japanese bonds have returned 3.3 percent this year, according to Merrill Lynch Indexes, compared with a return of 0.872 percent in 2009.
Bank Of Japan’s Governor Masaaki Shirakawa refused to expand monthly purchases of government bonds this year even as deflation persisted. The bank on Oct. 5 instead created a 5 trillion yen ($60 billion) fund to buy bonds and other assets, and pledged to keep its benchmark interest rate at “virtually zero” until the end of deflation is in sight. Deflation has been entrenched in the economy since 1998. The GDP deflator, a gauge of prices across the economy, has fallen 14 percent since 1997, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
A financial crisis in 1997-98 precipitated by bad loans on Japanese lenders’ balance sheets stemming from burst land and stock-price bubbles of the early 1990s set off Japan’s deflation. Property prices have slumped for 17 of the past 19 years, and stocks remain 76 percent off of their 1989 peak, according to the Nikkei 225 Stock Average.
Japan’s currency traded at 81.79 per dollar, compared with 81.72. It touched 81.39 on Oct. 11, the strongest level since April 1995.
Bass began buying securities with shorter durations last year as he predicted central bank and government actions globally to rescue the financial system will result in “outright currency debasement.”
He began buying shorter-term debt and precious metals then, anticipating hyperinflation will lead to higher interest rates. Bass also said in May that Europe’s debt crisis will not be solved by the $1 trillion loan package the International Monetary Fund and the European Union agreed on earlier that month.
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