Japan Shines

Terry Flanagan

More, and more, long only managers choose Japan as the developed market of choice.

Two classic schools of thought within investment management may be categorized as value versus growth investing. Adding some geographic complexity to that, developed markets versus emerging.

While the latter has been long held prized for their growth potential, and relatively debt free, unlike their developed counterparts, market volatility has forced many investors to forget growth in pursuit of safeguarding their investments.

“On the global stock market, we’re positive. On the short term, we can explain volatility to remain given the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis and the general global economic outlook,” said Michael Small, senior vice president, head of marketing and client service of Daiwa SB Investments, a member company of giant Japan brokerage Daiwa Securities. The firm has slightly north of 7 billion under management.

As its name suggests, Daiwa is bullish on Japan as the developed market with great valuations. Despite having a tumultuous political history in recent times, the nation’s country is too oversold, according to Small—a tall tale buy signal for many value managers.

“We’re research oriented. Our philosophy is to outperform the benchmark, but more importantly, we try to look at value from a different angle. Value is so much more holistic than a quantitative approach,” Small noted.

While a macroeconomic dark cloud presides over Europe due to its debt crisis, Japan’s recent macroeconomic woes, notably the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami has actually helped Japan start anew, said Small.

“There are periods of discount and periods of premium but the price to book ratios for most of Japanese companies look sound, and the tsunami, as tragic as it was, caused a lot of overselling,” therefore casting opportunity for Daiwa, noted Small.

“Despite the global perception, Japan has a healthy balance sheet,” said Small, who noted that the more investor sentiment on Japan sinks, the more the market will climb higher. “We’ve reached a bottom earlier this year.”

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