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Brokers’ profit gains, like stocks, may cool

Security share volume off 37%: 'Abenomics' magic fading?

by Takahiko Hyuga

Bloomberg

Japan’s largest brokerages, whose first-half profits soared more than 10-fold as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic stimulus program bolstered investors’ appetite for local stocks, may find that the magic is wearing off.

Nomura Holdings Inc. reported Tuesday that its second-quarter net income rose to ¥38.1 billion from ¥2.8 billion a year earlier.

Profit at Daiwa Securities Group Inc. climbed to ¥35.5 billion for the three months that ended Sept. 30, up from ¥7.4 billion. Profit at both firms declined from the first quarter.

Those earnings windfalls may become more elusive in the second half as investors’ growing skepticism toward “Abenomics” triggers a drop in trading volumes and brokerage commissions. Nomura’s quarterly results missed analysts’ estimates as demand for Japanese stocks eased and the Topix index fell from its May peak.

“We need to see whether Abenomics will really feed into the macro economy and lead to growth,” said Azuma Ohno, a Tokyo-based analyst at Barclays. “Without a rebound in stocks, it’s difficult to expect good sales for investment trusts or a pickup in brokerages’ earnings.”

The Topix, the best performer among major developed markets this year, has lost more than 5 percent from its May 22 peak as investors examine whether Abe will successfully implement business deregulation policies to augment the fiscal spending and monetary easing already under way.

While an index of securities firms was the best performer on the Topix in the year that ended on Sept. 30, it has since declined 1.4 percent. The average daily volume of shares traded on the first section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange dropped 37 percent last quarter from the previous three months, Bloomberg data show.

Nomura Chief Financial Officer Shigesuke Kashiwagi said Tuesday that he anticipates investment banking operations, such as managing stock and convertible bond sales, will maintain their momentum, along with merger-advisory services.

“Demand for cross-border acquisitions from Japanese firms is still high and they have enough cash,” he told analysts.

Nomura was Japan’s top equity underwriter last quarter, data compiled by Bloomberg show, as the brokerage arranged transactions including a ¥125 billion share sale by Dentsu Inc., Asia’s biggest ad firm. It was also the No. 1 arranger of bond sales.

Daiwa CFO Mikita Komatsu said the market will react negatively if the prime minister’s policies falter. Still, he’s optimistic that won’t be the case.

“When I actually meet overseas investors, they don’t worry too much,” he said at a news briefing Tuesday. “There are still many foreign investors who think they need to add Japanese stocks to their portfolios.”

The reduced activity in the market during the fiscal second quarter caused a slowdown in sales of investment trusts, which generate commissions for the brokerages, said Shinichi Ina, an analyst at UBS AG in Tokyo.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty going into the yearend,” Ina said. “We’re in the phase where we are testing whether Abenomics will have a lasting effect.”