It's been a slower week than normal across the Pacific -- at least, compared to the action-packed drama that "normal" has become in 2013 -- but there's still plenty that you need to know about. Japan's Nikkei (NIKKEIINDICES:^NI225) rose just 0.4% this week, a sluggish five days after the fast start to the year that's kicked up the index 5.8% since 2013 began. As long as the yen keeps weakening against other currencies, Japanese companies and stocks will be happy; but with a new chief of Japan's central bank soon to be nominated, change is in the air.
Shinzo Abe battles the BoJ
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is keeping up the heat on the Bank of Japan. Abe told the country's parliament this week that a failure to hit his 2% inflation target would warrant changes in the laws overseeing the central bank -- the latest shot he's fired at the BoJ in his efforts to fight deflation. Abe will also have to nominate a new governor for the BoJ soon, but his plans for a more aggressive leader may be fading.
Momentum is gaining behind former deputy BoJ governor Toshiro Muto, a man with experience guiding monetary policy, and ties to numerous ruling party leaders. But while Muto has stated that Japan's central bank has room for more bond purchases, he has also cautioned of the risks of rising bond yields. This suggests a more cautious approach, as compared to Abe's charging-ahead style. Whether or not Abe will nominate Muto, or go with a candidate molded in his liking, remains to be seen.
However, it's not just the loose monetary policy of the BoJ that's affecting Japanese stocks. Sony (NYSE:SNE) hogged the spotlight this week with the announcement of its PlayStation 4 entertainment console arriving later this year. The move didn't help Sony's shares much, which sank 1.4% this week, partially due to Sony's inexplicable choice of not even showing its game console at the announcement event. The company also failed to release a price, although Sony did announce numerous social features and apps for the console, along with new games for the PS4's launch.
It'll have to perform well, as the video game market hasn't exactly been surging. Competitor Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) hasn't released much information on its much-speculated successor to the Xbox 360 game console yet, although rumors are flying that the company is preparing an announcement of the product with Sony's release in the rearview mirror. With the previous game consoles having been around for years, Sony and Microsoft need to make a splash to spice up lagging industry sales.
New consoles don't guarantee success, however, as Sony's fellow Japanese gaming company Nintendo (NASDAQOTH:NTDOY) has found. The company slashed its sales forecasts for its new Wii U console back in January following a lackluster release, a serious disappointment, despite the company's raising of its profit forecast for the fiscal year through March. However, the Sony announcement surprisingly sent Nintendo's shares racing higher, and the stock managed to rise 5.6% this week.
Around the electronics stocks in Japan, Canon (NYSE:CAJ) managed to have a decent week, despite the hammering of its stock since the start of the year. Shares rose 1.1% this week, but the stock has fallen more than 12.2% through the beginning of 2013. The company released its Mixed Reality headset this week, a bulky, virtual reality product that's a far cry from Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Glass. Canon's Mixed Reality is aimed at businesses looking to render 3D environments or products in real virtual space, making it an (expensive) candidate for businesses. It isn't revolutionary, but Canon's virtual reality product is a cool device that should appeal to players in specific industries.
Is the opportunity there?