Cover of MoneyWeek issue no 399

Survivor stocks

29 August 2008 / Issue 399

The companies that can get you through the crunch... PLUS:

  • How to sort bargain stocks from turkeys
  • Hauling profits from the bottom of the ocean
  • The oil wild-catter behind the world's biggest wind farm

Excerpt

Japan is not so different

At a time when most of us are cutting back on spending, one group is splashing the cash freely. Japanese companies are finally opening their wallets and snapping up cheap assets across the world. They’ve taken their time. They haven’t spent this much since the 1980s boom. Is it possible that we could be waiting a similar length of time before the boom days return for the West?

Most pundits still don’t think we could experience a Japan-style ‘Lost Decade’ in the UK or US. Trouble is, their arguments are wrong.

As Nomura economist Richard Koo has pointed out, the root of Japan’s problems was simple: companies and consumers had spent too much borrowed money on property and stocks. When prices collapsed, they were left with debts far higher than the assets backing them. So they did what any sensible person would do – they started paying down debt rather than spending.

The worrying – if obvious – lesson from Japan is that the country’s huge bust was mainly down to the size of the huge boom that preceded it…

Read the full editor’s letter here: Japan is not so different