Cover of MoneyWeek magazine issue no 514

Last rites for the euro?

26 November 2010 / Issue 514

What the crisis means for your money


  • Profit from the new uranium boom
  • Don't bet on emerging markets
  • It's true: we've never had it so good


The future is still Japanese

I’ve been re-reading William Gibson’s Neuromancer recently. Published in 1984, this cult sci-fi novel gave readers the first mainstream vision of a world connected by something like the internet. Gibson coined the word ‘cyberspace’, among other things. The story is pretty pulpy (perfect for winding down after trawling mind-boggling figures on poor old Ireland’s woes), but it’s an impressive vision of the future.

Just one thing really dates it. The dominant culture and the brands name-checked are Japanese. Gibson was writing at a time when Japan was where China is today. A new superpower in the making, armed with devastating Asian efficiency and far-sighted central-planning economies. That particular vision of the future peaked at the end of 1989. The 1990s were Japan’s first lost decade. And the first ten years of this century haven’t been much better for that country.

Such is the popular view. But Jonathan Allum of Mizuho Capital begs to differ. Yes, Japan did terribly in the 1990s. If you compare the market’s performance to that of the rest of the world since 1980, then “the big calls of the last 30 years were to go long Japan in 1982 and short in 1990”.

However, since 1998, measured in a common currency, “Japan has just moved in line with everyone else with the occasional wiggle”. And this year, it has done rather better than most.

• Read the full editor’s letter here:
The future is still Japanese

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