The negative interest rate environment is weakening Japan’s banks — a key transmission valve for stimulating economic growth — the country’s chief financial regulator has warned.
The oblique but unusually critical comments from Nobuchika Mori, a former cheerleader of the country’s Abenomics growth programme, come as central banks across the globe face a backlash, and in some cases unintended consequences, over the unorthodox monetary policy of negative rates.
In Europe and Japan, which joined the negative interest rate club in late January, so-called Nirp has also failed to weaken the currency, with both the euro and yen appreciating in value this year.
As a result, investors have been withdrawing from Japan in droves. Foreign investors have pulled more than Y5tn ($46bn) out of Japanese equities since the start of the year and, in a clear vote against Nirp and the future direction of Japan under Abenomics, global fund managers surveyed by Bank of America Merrill Lynch revealed they were underweight Japanese equities for the first time since Shinzo Abe became prime minister in December 2012.
Mr Mori, commissioner of Japan’s Financial Services Agency, told financial market participants: “Low interest rates have prevailed and the yield curve has become flat. In this environment, it will become more and more difficult for banks to achieve balances between risk, return and capital.”
His speech on Wednesday, at the annual meeting of the International Swaps and Derivatives Association in Tokyo, highlighted a series of threats to the banking sector and added to escalating criticism of the path taken by the Bank of Japan.
Senior officials have privately questioned the wisdom of the policy as a whole and are especially critical of BoJ governor Haruhiko Kuroda’s suggestion of pushing even deeper into negative territory.
As in Europe, banking and finance shares were pummelled in the immediate aftermath of the Nirp announcement. This drove a broader slump in the Topix benchmark index, which has dropped 14 per cent since the start of the year.
Mr Mori has in the past been a big public supporter of Mr Abe’s Abenomics economic revival programme and of the unconventional monetary policies of the BoJ.
But he surprised some ISDA members by taking the opportunity to voice concerns about the impact of these policies. Among the risks, he said that Japan, along with many other countries, was already feeling the effects of an ageing population, matured consumption and what he called “limited room for economic growth”.
Many financial officials fear it is impossible to increase growth artificially through monetary policies that are not sustainable over time.
其结果是，投资者近来一直在大举撤出日本。自今年初以来，外国投资者已从日本股市撤出逾5万亿日元（合460亿美元）资金。而接受美银美林(Bank of America Merrill Lynch)调查的全球基金经理披露，自2012年12月安倍晋三(Shinzo Abe)出任日本首相以来，他们首次减持日本股票，这是对负利率政策、对安倍经济学下日本未来发展方向的明确否定。
作为日本金融厅(Financial Services Agency)长官，森信亲向金融市场参与者表示：“低利率已成普遍现象，收益率曲线已变得平坦。在这种环境下，银行越来越难以在风险、回报和资本金之间找到平衡。”
周三，森信亲在东京国际互换和衍生工具协会（International Swaps and Derivatives Association，简称ISDA）年会上发表的这番讲话，突显出银行业面临的一系列威胁，并给人们对日本央行(BoJ)政策路线的不断升级的批评填了一把火。