Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) is down slightly following a weak GDP report from Japan over the weekend. As of 1:15 p.m. EDT the Dow is down 0.23% to 15,390, while the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) is down 0.25% to 1,687.
While there were no U.S. economic releases today, later this week we will be getting numerous reports on inflation, retail sales, industrial production, and the health of the housing market. Over the weekend the Japanese government reported that its second-quarter GDP grew 0.6% quarter over quarter, or 2.6% year-over-year, falling short of respective analyst expectations of 0.9% and 3.6%.
Japan has been pursuing a strategy that has been termed "Abenomics" in an effort to jump-start the Japanese economy. The risky part of the strategy is that the Japanese government is using debt to spur the economy, though the country already has a massive debt load -- Japanese government debt recently hit 1 quadrillion yen, or roughly $10.5 trillion. While that's an absurdly high number, still worse is that it's more than 200% of the country's GDP. Economists have historically worried when a country's debt-to-GDP ratio hits 90%, as at that level interest payments start taking up a large part of a country's GDP.
While the effects of quantitative easing and fiscal stimulus are starting to be seen, the big unknown is whether the government will be able to make meaningful progress toward structural reform of the economy to get companies to invest more. Japan has historically been a hard market to compete in, as protectionist measures on both the corporate and government sides hinder healthy competition. Abenomics' third effort to stimulate the economy involves deregulation, stronger corporate governance, and labor market reform. Of the three strategies, this will be the hardest to see through, as it will be politically unpopular with many groups who have vested interests to maintain the status quo.