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Defying Gravity: How Long Will Japanese Government Bond Prices Remain High?

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  • Takeo Hoshi
  • Takatoshi Ito

Abstract

Recent academic papers have shown that the Japanese sovereign debt situation is not sustainable. The puzzle is that the bond rate has remained low and stable. Some suggest that the low yield can be explained by domestic residents’ willingness to hold Japanese government bonds (JGBs) despite its low return, and that as long as domestic residents remain home-biased, the JGBs are sustainable. About 95% of JGBs are currently owned by domestic residents. This paper argues that even with such dominance of domestic investors, if the amount of government debt breaches the ceiling imposed by the domestic private sector financial assets, the JGB rates can rapidly rise and the Japanese government can face difficulty rolling over the existing debt. A simulation is conducted on future paths of household saving and fiscal situations to show that the ceiling would be breached in the next 10 years or so without a drastic fiscal consolidation. This paper also shows that the government debt can be kept under the ceiling with sufficiently large tax increases. The JGB yields can rise even before the ceiling is hit, if the expectation of such drastic fiscal consolidation disappears. This paper points out several possible triggers for such a change in expectation. However, downgrading of JGBs by credit rating agencies is not likely to be a trigger, since past downgrades have not produced any change in the JGB yield. If and when the JGB rates rapidly rise, the Japanese financial institutions that hold a large amount of JGBs will sustain losses and the economy will suffer from fiscal austerity, financial instability, and inflation.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18287.

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Date of creation: Aug 2012
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18287

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Blog mentions

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  1. L’abenomics est-elle une réussite ?
    by ? in D'un champ l'autre on 2014-03-24 18:44:00
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Cited by:
  1. Tomoaki Yamada & Sagiri Kitao & Selahattin Imrohoroglu, 2013. "Achieving Fiscal Balance in Japan," 2013 Meeting Papers 736, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  2. Gary Hansen & Selo Imrohoroglu, 2013. "Fiscal Reform and Government Debt in Japan: A Neoclassical Perspective," NBER Working Papers 19431, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Åsa Johansson & Yvan Guillemette & Fabrice Murtin & David Turner & Giuseppe Nicoletti & Christine de la Maisonneuve & Philip Bagnoli & Guillaume Bousquet & Francesca Spinelli, 2013. "Long-Term Growth Scenarios," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 1000, OECD Publishing.
  4. Randall S. Jones & Satoshi Urasawa, 2013. "Restoring Japan's Fiscal Sustainability," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 1050, OECD Publishing.
  5. Real Arai & Junji Ueda, 2012. "A Numerical Evaluation on a Sustainable Size of Primary Deficit in Japan," KIER Working Papers 823, Kyoto University, Institute of Economic Research.
  6. Serkan Arslanalp & Raphael W. Lam, 2013. "Outlook for Interest Rates and Japanese Banks’ Risk Exposures under Abenomics," IMF Working Papers 13/213, International Monetary Fund.

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