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

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Listed:
  • 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Takeo Hoshi & Takatoshi Ito, 2012. "Defying Gravity: How Long Will Japanese Government Bond Prices Remain High?," NBER Working Papers 18287, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18287
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. L’abenomics est-elle une réussite ?
      by ? in D'un champ l'autre on 2014-03-24 23:44:00
    2. Inflation and Fiscal Policy
      by Steve Cecchetti and Kim Schoenholtz in Money, Banking and Financial Markets on 2016-09-12 18:01:59

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Selahattin İmrohoroğlu & Sagiri Kitao & Tomoaki Yamada, 2016. "Achieving Fiscal Balance In Japan," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 57, pages 117-154, February.
    2. Gary Hansen & Selahattin Imrohoroglu, 2016. "Fiscal Reform and Government Debt in Japan: A Neoclassical Perspective," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 21, pages 201-224, July.
    3. Koji Nakamura & Tomoyuki Yagi, 2015. "Fiscal Conditions and Long-term Interest Rates," Bank of Japan Working Paper Series 15-E-10, Bank of Japan.
    4. Jan Jacobs & Kazuo Ogawa & Elmer Sterken & Ichiro Tokutsu, 2020. "Public Debt, Economic Growth and the Real Interest Rate: A Panel VAR Approach to EU and OECD Countries," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 52(12), pages 1377-1394, March.
    5. Arai, Real & Ueda, Junji, 2013. "A numerical evaluation of the sustainable size of the primary deficit in Japan," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 59-75.
    6. Takeo Hoshi & Takatoshi Ito, 2013. "Is the Sky the Limit? Can Japanese Government Bonds Continue to Defy Gravity?," Asian Economic Policy Review, Japan Center for Economic Research, vol. 8(2), pages 218-247, December.
    7. Randall S. Jones & Satoshi Urasawa, 2013. "Restoring Japan's Fiscal Sustainability," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 1050, OECD Publishing.
    8. 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.
    9. Hui, Hon Chung, 2013. "Fiscal sustainability in Malaysia: a re-examination," MPRA Paper 80018, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Serkan Arslanalp & Waikei R Lam, 2013. "Outlook for Interest Rates and Japanese Banks’ Risk Exposures under Abenomics," IMF Working Papers 2013/213, International Monetary Fund.
    11. Jochen R. Andritzky, 2012. "Government Bonds and their Investors; What Are the Facts and Do they Matter?," IMF Working Papers 2012/158, International Monetary Fund.
    12. David Greenlaw & James D. Hamilton & Peter Hooper & Frederic S. Mishkin, 2013. "Crunch Time: Fiscal Crises and the Role of Monetary Policy," NBER Working Papers 19297, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Tanweer Akram & Huiqing Li, 2019. "The Impact of the Bank of Japan's Monetary Policy on Japanese Government Bonds' Low Nominal Yields," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_938, Levy Economics Institute.
    14. Tomomi Miyazaki & Kazuki Onji, 2017. "The Sustainability of Japan's Government Debt: A Review," Discussion Papers 1716, Graduate School of Economics, Kobe University.
    15. Ikuo Saito, 2016. "Fading Ricardian Equivalence in Ageing Japan," IMF Working Papers 2016/194, International Monetary Fund.
    16. Heller, Peter S., 2016. "The challenge of an aged and shrinking population: Lessons to be drawn from Japan’s experience," The Journal of the Economics of Ageing, Elsevier, vol. 8(C), pages 85-93.
    17. Ogawa, Kazuo & Imai, Kentaro, 2014. "Why do commercial banks hold government bonds? The case of Japan," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 201-216.
    18. McNelis, Paul D. & Yoshino, Naoyuki, 2016. "Finding stability in a time of prolonged crisis: Unconventional policy rules for Japan," Journal of Financial Stability, Elsevier, vol. 27(C), pages 122-136.
    19. Tanweer Akram & Huiqing Li, 2018. "The Dynamics of Japanese Government Bonds' Nominal Yields," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_906, Levy Economics Institute.
    20. Tanweer Akram & Huiqing Li, 2020. "Some Empirical Models of Japanese Government Bond Yields Using Daily Data," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_962, Levy Economics Institute.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H63 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Debt; Debt Management; Sovereign Debt
    • H68 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Forecasts of Budgets, Deficits, and Debt
    • J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts
    • O47 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Empirical Studies of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence
    • O53 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Asia including Middle East

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