Bonds expected to gain in Japan

INTERNATIONAL MARKETS: TOKYO

Japanese bonds will probably extend gains this week, driving the benchmark yield to new lows, as prospects for global stocks remain shaky.

Bonds and stocks see-sawed last week with the benchmark Nikkei 225 stock average staying below the 17,000 mark in the last four days.

"The focus is on whether the Nikkei will fall below 16,000 and the benchmark bond yield will stay below 1.6 per cent," said Kusuo Aoki, a chief bond analyst at Yamaichi Securities. Mr Aoki expects the benchmark yield to range from 1.55 per cent to 1.65 per cent in the week ahead.

In the week just ended, the yield on the benchmark government bond, maturing in September 2005, fell 6.5 points to 1.62 per cent. It touched a record low 1.575 per cent on Friday.

Traders and investors are looking to US stocks for clues to how Japanese equities will fare next week. The dive in US stocks last week helped push the Japanese stock benchmark index down to its lowest level since July 1995.

If stocks stabilise over the next few days, global investors may turn away from bonds in both Japan and the US.

"The most important factor [for bonds] at the moment is equity prices," said Akio Makabe, an analyst at Dai-ichi Kangyo Bank.

Traders and investors are also awaiting an announcement of government measures to stimulate the Japanese economy.

The government "will probably put out its measures next week", said Mr Aoki. He added that if the package was as lifeless as expected, that could support bonds.

Even so, some traders are concerned that bonds' gains could be capped because of the fast pace of the recent rise. Bond prices could be "top- heavy", said Chotaro Morita, a bond analyst at Nikko Research Center.

Two consumer spending reports will be released on Tuesday. Japanese markets are closed on Monday for Culture Day.

The Japan Automobile Dealers Association will put out domestic sales figures for October. Sales have fallen for six straight months, including an 8.9 per cent decline in September from the same month a year ago.

Household spending figures will also be released by the Economic Planning Agency. Spending fell 0.5 per cent in August from a year earlier.

Traders expect the reports to have little impact on the market, however, because investors have already priced in that spending is weak.

Copyright: IOS & Bloomberg

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