Ruling coalition politicians stood ready Tuesday to urge Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to abandon promised reforms and sidestep internationally recognized mark-to-market accounting rules.
Koizumi, however, came out against the suggestion. With the benchmark 225-issue Nikkei average hitting its third consecutive 20-year low, politicians spent the day bandying short-term measures to boost stock prices by March 31, when most companies close their books.
Allowing companies to revert to book-value accounting is one step many believe will have the most immediate effect. Book value is the price at which shares are purchased. Adopting this would make Japanese companies immune to the current stock falls.
“Stock prices are at critical levels,” said Hideyuki Aizawa, head of the Liberal Democratic Party’s antideflation panel, following a coalition task force meeting on financial policies. “We can’t afford to do nothing.”
Before the meeting, Koizumi said he would not suspend mark-to-market rules.
“Even in an unforeseen emergency due to the Iraq situation, we will make sure no financial crisis occurs,” Koizumi said.
But the mood among coalition members was grim; among those present at the task force meeting, only one was opposed to the idea, Aizawa said.
In what has become a March tradition in Japan, politicians are scrambling to implement stock price-boosting measures as the end of the business year draws near. They hope to avoid a possible crisis that could be triggered by banks’ and companies’ exposure to a weak market ahead of book closings.
LDP members also discussed giving banks another two years, to September, 2006, to pare their stockholdings to levels not more than their core capital.
In addition, they said they would study legal steps to allow an earlier injection of public funds into banks. Currently, the government can inject funds into banks only after the prime minister declares a state of financial crisis.
“We are always thinking about what will truly help reform the financial system,” said Financial Services Minister Heizo Takenaka, who did not speak against any of the proposed measures. “We will observe the debates closely and consider the opinions aired.”
In another familiar scene, ruling party leaders clamored for more monetary easing from the Bank of Japan. The central bank can increase its outright purchases of Japanese government bonds, buy banks’ stockholdings beyond its 2 trillion yen limit and purchase exchange-traded funds, they said.
Some analysts believe banking and corporate crises could be triggered if the Nikkei falls below 7,500 or the Topix index plummets under 750. The Nikkei closed Tuesday at 7,862.43, and the Topix at 770.62.
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