The iShares MSCI Japan ETF (NYSEArca: EWJ) is one of the largest exchange traded funds tracking Japanese stocks and EWJ, along with other Japan ETFs, is enjoying the renaissance being experienced by ex-US developed markets stocks. EWJ is higher by 11% year-to-date and there could be more gains on the way for Japanese stocks.
EWJ has delivered a solid performance even in the face of the U.S. dollar slumping and the yen being solid. Japanese stocks are usually adversely affected by a stronger yen due to the economy’s high dependence on exports. Importantly, Japanese stocks are attractively valued relative to other developed markets.
“We looked at how Japanese equity performance and valuation have trended since 1990. Japanese equities are approaching peaks they have struggled to climb over in past decades, but we think this time may be different,” said BlackRock in a recent note. “Valuation is lower today than at previous high points in stock market performance, as the chart shows. Moreover, Japanese stocks appear inexpensive on the global stage. They are trading at a 20% discount to U.S. peers on a 12-month forward price-to-earnings basis, for example.”
Japanese equities also show more attractive valuations, compared to the pricier U.S. markers. For instance, EWJ shows a 15.42 price-to-earnings and a 1.2 price-to-book, whereas the S&P 500 index is trading at a 18.9 P/E and a 2.6 P/B.
“The Bank of Japan’s (BoJ’s) equity purchases and domestic investors’ increasing preference for stocks provide further support. Our analysis shows Japanese equities remain far from a crowded trade as foreign investor flows into Japan have recently subsided,” according to BlackRock.
The iShares Currency Hedged MSCI Japan ETF (NYSEArca: HEWJ) and Deutsche X-trackers MSCI Japan Hedged Equity ETF (NYSEArca: DBJP) are among the other well-known Japan ETFs for investors to consider. Both are currency hedged and could surge if the yen weakens against the U.S. dollar.
The Bank of Japan’s loose monetary policies along with a wider rising rate differentials between the U.S. and Japan could support a depreciating Japanese yen currency over the short-term, which would bolster the export-heavy Japanese market. An issue for EWJ is its lack of exposure to smaller Japanese companies, some of which are delivering impressive returns this year.
“A further support is the BoJ’s ultra-easy monetary policy, which contrasts with a normalizing Federal Reserve and a looming step change in the European Central Bank’s monetary stimulus. We see this helping keep the yen in a stable trading range. A sharp rise in the yen is the main risk to the Japanese equity rally,” notes BlackRock.
For more information on the Japanese market, visit our Japan category.
The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.