Japan's stock market mixed ahead of the Olympics

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Japan's stock market mixed ahead of the Olympics

The shadow of the Olympics has hung over Japan's range-bound stock market for months, with some fearing Covid disaster while others have hoped medal wins would help the country mentally move past the pandemic.

What are the chances of a strong Olympics than 10 Games left to go when games leave or look good. Covid-related disruptions have been minimal, while Japan's athletes have already taken home a record haul of 20 gold medals.

The market outlook is mixed, though analysts have divided over whether Japanese equities - typically get a boost from a rich medal haul - will rally in the months ahead as vaccination proceed apace. The alternative is that a growing wave of Covid cases and public disillusionment over the handling of the pandemic lead to political instability, worsening the underperformance of Japan's stock benchmarks.

In a normal year, Olympic gold would see markets follow. Akiyoshi Takumori, chief economist at Sumitomo Mitsui DS Asset Management, noted that during decades the Nikkei 225 Stock Average rose during almost every Olympics in which Japan has achieved double figures in gold medals.

But the games were in the middle of a record coronavirus surge, with the public tiring of increasingly ineffective states of emergency. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has staked his reputation on safe handling of Olympics and virus, with a general election in September preceding a party leadership poll in autumn.

'With Olympics being held and cases increasing during that period, there's the risk that the Suga government gets stuck with this image of having failed to control the pandemic, said Tomoichiro Kubota, a senior market analyst at Matsui Securities Co. in Tokyo.

Some investors are sounding the alarm for what this means for scenarios which assumed an autumn rebound. The NikkeiNikkei 225 is up just 0.5% for the year, among the worst-performing developed-market benchmarks tracked by Bloomberg.

In the worst case, economists could have to rewrite the fall economic recovery scenario, said Hiroshi Namioka, chief strategist of T&D Asset Management Co. The approval rating for the Suga administration could be extended as the Olympics are held despite surrounding issues, which could weigh on Japanese stocks.

With Tokyo recording a total of just five Covid-related deaths in the past week in a city of 14 million, others say it may be become like other capitals learning to live with large infection counts.

'People are looking more at the numbers of serious cases and deaths, though television talk shows might look differently, said Tetsuo Seshimo, a fund manager in Saison Asset Management Co. 'The situation is totally different to last year.

That's thanks to fully expanded inoculations, with more than 75% of over 65 s now completely vaccinated. While polls still indicate most are unhappy about the rollout, the government expects more than 40% of the overall population will have had both shots by the time the current state of emergency expires at the end of August.

External factors, which have weighed heavily on Japan's stocks this year, are also likely to be a factor. India's tax squeeze could give Foreign investors pause, with Japan a potential beneficiary, while SMB Nikko Securities Inc. analysts Masashi Akutsu and Hikaru Yasuda see Japan benefiting from stronger U.S. job data and a drop in CPI.

The outlook from September is also brightening in Japan, they wrote in a July 29 note citing the expectation that over 50% of the population will be vaccinated by as early as September and the likelihood for stimulus ahead of the election. 'All these sets the stage for domestic recovery from September to December.