In April 2013, Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda first vowed that his team would “do whatever it can” to end deflation. Many were quick to equate the pledge with Mario Draghi’s “whatever it takes” promise at the European Central Bank. On Oct. 31, Kuroda backed up his words, dramatically increasing the central bank’s bond purchases to about $700 billion annually. Markets were thrilled.
Yet whatever the BOJ is doing clearly isn’t working. Tuesday’s gross domestic product numbers for the third quarter showed that Japan is back in recession — its sixth in the past two decades. The problem is traction. Printing mountains of yen doesn’t do any good if banks refuse to lend, and households and businesses don’t borrow. The only people benefiting from Kuroda’s largess right now are punters. Bloomberg News reports that Kuroda’s policies have helped make investors in Japanese stocks $1 trillion richer over the last two years.