Is this the future of the USA too?
Two lost decades and massive property- and stock-bubble explosions later, Japan is a one-word cautionary tale. Caught in economic and demographic atrophy—and stewarded by countless false-start prime ministers—the country has become a hub for zombie banks, a generation of disenchanted youth, and fading brands such as Sony (SNE), Sharp (6753:JP), and Panasonic (PC).
Last year, for the first time, sales of adult diapers in Japan exceeded those for babies. Factor in how the strong yen has been making the country’s critical exports more expensive, and you can see why the world’s No. 3 economy (recently pushed into third place by China) has been quicksand for investors; when international markets hit bottom in early 2009, Japan’s Nikkei slumped to levels it hadn’t seen since 1983. A Merrill Lynch survey of global fund managers discovered that their net exposure to Japan is at its lowest in a decade (subscription necessary).