Tigers have economy by the tail

The adage that the economy picks up and equity markets rally the year after a successful Hanshin Tigers season seems to be coming true.

Last year, the Tigers won their first Central League pennant in 18 years and Tokyo stocks are making a good showing this year on the back of an upbeat outlook for the economy.

The benchmark Nikkei stock index has risen steadily since hitting a 20-year low of 7,607.88 in April 2003. Last week, the index closed above the 12,000 line for the first time in 32 months.

A review of past Tiger performances shows that the club’s victories occurred in the years that emerged as turning points for the economy and stock market, according to a report compiled recently by Nikko Cordial Securities Inc.

Such a link may be dismissed merely as coincidence. But it is hard to ignore completely the connection given the 20-year cycle of Tiger championships in tune with the cycle of Japan’s corporate capital expenditures.

The Tigers won the league championship in 1944, 1947, 1962, 1964, 1985 and 2003. Corporate capital spending hit bottom during a 20-year cycle in all of those years except 1962 and 2003.

“We are still in the process of investigating the cause-and-effect relations” between Tigers performances and economic trends, said Yutaka Yoshino, an analyst at Nikko Citigroup Ltd. who compiled the report.

Yoshino speculates Tigers fans cheer for their team most avidly when their livelihood is undergoing its most difficult phase.

Following the Tigers’ victory in 1964, Japan entered an era of rapid economic growth, pushing share prices up through 1973.

The Tigers won the Japan Series in 1985, the year that became a turning point for the economy due to the 1985 Plaza Accord, which drove the yen higher against the dollar. After the Plaza Accord, stock prices moved higher through the end of 1989.