A couple of weeks ago, we brought you “The ‘Identity Of Who Is Propping Up Bitcoin’ Is Revealed!‘”
The exclamation point in the title was obviously sarcasm, something at least one commentator didn’t seem to immediately grasp, but you know, nuance isn’t for everyone.
That post contained some excerpts from a Deutsche Bank note that documented the extent to which the ubiquitous “Mrs. Watanabe” is behind a disproportionate share of cryptocurrency trading. That is of course not surprising. Japanese retail investors account for large percentage of leveraged FX trading so it doesn’t take a leap of logic to come to the conclusion that they’re likely knee-deep in the cryptosphere.
Throw in the fact that Japan has taken a comparatively liberal approach to cryptocurrencies and you’ve got a recipe for rampant speculation among folks who, at least according to the available data, might not be as savvy as you’d ideally like your margined FX traders to be. Here’s Deutsche Bank:
According to a survey by the Central Council for Financial Services Information (the Bank of Japan), Japanese retail investors are less financially literate than their US peers across all age groups (Figure 6). Compared to the US, financial literacy is particularly poor among people 35-54 years of age. The poor literacy of Japanese retail investors also stands out beside UK and German investors (Figure 7).
Needless to say, that hasn’t mattered (yet), because recent stumbles notwithstanding, Bitcoin and its crypto cousins have been a one-way ticket to the moon.
About a week later, in another note penned by the same strategist, Deutsche noted that “Japanese retail investors eagerly purchased certain assets at prices with little support from fundamentals during the bubble period in the 1980s and the IT bubble period around 2000.”
“Symbolic choices were NTT shares that listed in February 1987 for the former and Hikari Tsushin shares that listed in 1999 for the latter,” the bank continued, adding that “the emergence of Bitcoin wealthy might ignite the speculative spirit of Japanese people with strong follower aspirations.”
Well hilariously, Nomura is now out suggesting that unrealized gains in cryptocurrencies are set to “ignite” more than just “the speculative spirit of Japanese people.” Specifically, the bank thinks Japanese are likely to boost spending in light of their newfound (and likely unrealized) crypto riches.
“Rises in asset values often result in a rise in consumer spending, too, known as the wealth effect,” Nomura said in a note out Friday.
They even went so far as to put a number on it. To wit:
We estimate the wealth effect from unrealized gains on bitcoin trading by Japanese investors since the start of fiscal year 2017, and estimate a potential boost to consumer spending of 23.2-96.0 billion yen.
That raises the following obvious follow-on question: what happens in a crypto rout when all of those unrealized gains become unrealized losses which are eventually “realized” by default when cryptocurrencies crash to $0?
It should be fine.
Because as Donald Trump will be happy to remind you if you ask him, Japan is “a nation of Samurai warriors.”