Japan’s Stock Market Suffers as Investors Worry About Success of Abenomics

Japan’s stock market was on an impressive yearlong tear. But starting a few weeks ago, everything went horribly wrong.

The violent vicissitudes of the market have been front and center lately with the head-turning rise and fall of Japan’s Nikkei 225 index.

With Japan in decades-long doldrums, recently elected Prime Minister Shinzo Abe outlined a bold monetary policy plan that triggered massive cheering from the likes of economists Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz and bets by the well-known investors Daniel Loeb and Stanley Druckenmiller. The new policies included an aggressive expansions of the money supply, a stated intent by Japan’s central bank to boost inflation, a weaker yen, and aggressive stimulus and reform efforts. Foreign investors were cheered by the move, as it seemed that policymakers were finally waking up from a long sleep. And Abenomics seemed to be working: Japan’s economy grew at a 3.5 percent annual rate in the first quarter.

But violent rallies often come to violent ends. The hasty rise in Japanese stocks was unsustainable. And just as buying begets more buying, selling often begets more selling. In the past few weeks, those who were crowing about Japan’s success have been, well, eating crow. The Nikkei 225 Index fell nearly 6 percent Wednesday. And the Japanese stock market has stumbled into bear territory, falling over 20 percent since a peak on May 23. The precipitous plunge comes after a rise in the yen hurt Japanese exporters, a slowdown in China, and a lack of certainty about the future of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s moves. However, Japanese officials are urging investors to keep calm and carry on. As Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga put it: “I feel it’s important not to swing from joy to sorrow every time stock prices rise or fall and keep on doing what we need to do.”