If you haven’t bought Japan yet, what are you waiting for?

Japan’s central bank is determined to drive inflation up. That should be good for the country’s stocks. So if you’re not already investing in Japan, says John Stepek, now is a good time to start.

The market is used to being disappointed by Japan.

Investors were clearly holding their breath this morning, as the new central bank chief, Haruhiko Kuroda, prepared to announce his big plans for jump-starting Japan out of deflation.

For once, they needn't have worried.

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After Kuroda revealed the central bank's latest decisions, the Nikkei 225 rocketed and the yen tumbled against the US dollar.

Clearly, it worked.

And the good news for investors in Japan is that this could be the final push needed to convince the wider market that this time, Japan really is on the comeback trail

The Bank of Japan proves itself

In the wee small hours of the British morning, the yen was trading at around 92 to the US dollar. The Nikkei 225 meanwhile, looked like it was going to end down on the session.

But after the central bank announced the results of its latest two-day meeting, the yen weakened to around 95 to the dollar. The Nikkei surged to end the day up by more than 2%.

So what did Bank of Japan boss Kuroda already being described as Japan's Ben Bernanke' do?

The Japanese have been fiddling with monetary policy for so long that it's hard to keep on top of all the bells and whistles in their system. The short answer is that Kuroda promised to "do what it takes" to drive Japanese inflation up to 2%.

In itself, that was enough to get investors excited. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had showed signs earlier this week of rowing back from the idea that the 2% target was readily achievable.

As for how it's going to do it: well, firstly, the Bank of Japan will buy 7trn worth of bonds (roughly £50bn) each month. That's double what it currently buys, and a far bigger jump than the market had expected. In other words, it'll do more quantitative easing (QE) than the market had thought.

Secondly, it has changed what it's buying. On the bond side, it will be buying longer-dated government bonds (up to 40-year maturities). So long-term interest rates will be squeezed lower.

On top of that, it's also going to increase its purchases of even riskier assets such as exchange-traded funds and real estate investment trusts. So it won't just be using QE to buy government bonds. It's also printing money to buy equities, albeit in relatively small amounts. (This sounds extreme but believe it or not, the BoJ has been doing this for a while).

Thirdly, the BoJ has suspended its banknote rule'. This was a sort of speed limit on QE. It prevented the BoJ from buying more bonds than there were bank notes in circulation. Apart from anything else, this shows the BoJ is serious.

As if all this wasn't enough, Kuroda had the backing of almost the entire BoJ board. So there's very little to stop him getting even more radical.

Why is this different from what Ben Bernanke is doing?

The point of all this is to get the Japanese economy moving again. In nominal terms (ie, without taking deflation into account), the Japanese economy is no bigger than it was in 1992, notes Peter Tasker in the Financial Times.

Meanwhile, the strong yen has been punishing Japan's crucial export industries. Weakening the yen will boost exports. And encouraging nominal growth (even that driven by inflation) will help to improve the country's debt-to-GDP ratio.

One reader raised a very good point the last time I wrote about this: how is this any different to what Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke is doing in the US?

The answer is: it's not. And as far as I'm concerned, the jury's still out on how much good QE actually does for the real economy. You can easily make the case that the (very fragile) US recovery is down to its more aggressive treatment of the banks, the fact that its housing market crashed, and the fact that it can exploit shale oil and gas.

But there's one thing that QE does seem to do: and that's boost asset prices. And with every other major nation in the world trying to trash or defend its currency, Japan can't stand by any longer and let itself be the one that carries the fall-out.

What I also like about Japan is that even after the Nikkei 225 has risen by more than 40%, there's still a lot of scepticism about the market. Investors clearly expected the BoJ to disappoint them this morning. This may be the trigger that the sceptics need to convince them to join the party.

In short, if you're not already invested in Japan, now looks like a perfectly reasonable time to start. We'll also be taking a closer look at the question of hedging your yen exposure in an upcoming edition of MoneyWeek. So far, we've been wary about hedging the yen if Japan does disappoint, the yen will strengthen, which would offset the impact of a falling stock market.

But given the BoJ's determination, I can see why some of you might want to get full-blown exposure. If you're not already a subscriber, you can subscribe to MoneyWeek magazine.

This article is taken from the free investment email Money Morning. Sign up to Money Morning here .

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John Stepek

John is the executive editor of MoneyWeek and writes our daily investment email, Money Morning. John graduated from Strathclyde University with a degree in psychology in 1996 and has always been fascinated by the gap between the way the market works in theory and the way it works in practice, and by how our deep-rooted instincts work against our best interests as investors.

He started out in journalism by writing articles about the specific business challenges facing family firms. In 2003, he took a job on the finance desk of Teletext, where he spent two years covering the markets and breaking financial news. John joined MoneyWeek in 2005.

His work has been published in Families in Business, Shares magazine, Spear's Magazine, The Sunday Times, and The Spectator among others. He has also appeared as an expert commentator on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, BBC Radio Scotland, Newsnight, Daily Politics and Bloomberg. His first book, on contrarian investing, The Sceptical Investor, was released in March 2019. You can follow John on Twitter at @john_stepek.