Not Rising: Short Japan With These ETFs (EWJ, AAXJ, FXY)
The Japanese economy, the world's third-largest behind the U.S. and China, showed a smaller-than-expected fourth-quarter GDP contraction. Capital spending actually rose 4.9% and Japan's economy looks to be getting a lift from a weaker yen and reconstruction efforts following last year's tragic natural disasters.
That's the good news, but those highlights do little to change the fact that reconstruction efforts are temporary, Japan faces major demographic issues with one of the world's oldest populations and the country has to deal with $3 trillion in debt.
We're not going to gloss over the fact that the iShares MSCI Japan Index Fund (NYSE: EWJ) is up almost 10% year-to-date, but that's barely more than what the S&P 500 has offered, indicating investors really aren't being compensated for rolling the dice on Japan over the U.S.
Maybe now is a good time to consider hedging Japan-related positions or shorting the land of the rising sun with these ETFs.
ProShares UltraShort MSCI Japan (NYSE: EWV) There are plenty of country-specific inverse ETFs out there, but the ProShares UltraShort MSCI Japan definitely isn't one that gets a lot of attention. EWV's average daily volume of less than 9,000 shares highlights the ETF's under the radar status. One day does not change a trend, but oddly enough, EWV traded over five times its average daily turnover today. For those that plan to hold EWJ for extend time frames, EWV is worth looking into as an occasional hedge.
CurrencyShares Japanese Yen Trust (NYSE: FXY) As we just mentioned, part of Japan's good vibrations this year can be attributed to the finally falling yen. To that end, the search for ETFs with ugly charts should included the CurrencyShares Japanese Yen Trust. FXY's inverse counterpart, the ProShares UltraShort Yen (NYSE: YCS), has added over 13% in the past month alone.
Being long the yen isn't just a bearish bet on Japanese exporters, it's also an effective way of betting against the euro. Despite all of Japan's obvious economic woes, the yen still has a safe haven feel in some circles.
PowerShares DB 3x Inverse Japanese Government Bond Futures ETN (NYSE: JGBD) JGBD is only a few months old, trades barely more shares per day than EWV does and has an expense ratio of 0.95%. However, Japan long ago lost its AAA credit rating and with the largest debt-to-GDP ratio in the developed world, further downgrades are a real possibility meaning you don't want to be long Japanese bonds.
Remember what Kyle Bass had to say about Japan: "We believe the debts of the following nations, among others, are not sustainable in the current economic environment: Greece, Italy, Japan, Ireland, Iceland, Japan, Spain, Belgium, Japan, Portugal, France, and, have we mentioned Japan?"
iShares MSCI All Country Asia ex-Japan Index Fund (Nasdaq: AAXJ) For those that don't want to short EWJ or being long an inverse ETF, AAXJ is a great way of skirting Japan. Not to be trite, but in making a list of Asian countries that have corresponding U.S.-listed ETFs, the long Japan funds might be at the bottom of many traders' lists.
Said differently, Asia is worth trading, especially when one avoids Japan. AAXJ does that. China, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong account for over 71% of the ETF's weight. Other countries in the ETF include India, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand. All have far rosier prospects than Japan.
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