Buffett stands by Japan

Major Japanese stock indexes
plunged last week in days of frantic trading, with the Nikkei 225 stock average
ending the week down more than 10 per cent.

But at least one prominent investor
says the market has gotten it wrong.

Warren E. Buffett, chairman of
Berkshire Hathaway and one of the world’s wealthiest investors said the fall in
the market represented a buying opportunity because Japan would bounce back.

“It will take some time to rebuild,
but it will not change the economic future of Japan,” Mr. Buffett said during a
visit to Daegu, South Korea, after which he was to meet with Lee Myung-bak, the
South Korean president.

“If I owned Japanese stocks, I
would certainly not be selling them.”

Mr. Buffet also said he expected
the Japanese disasters to affect the world economy for a while, but that the
global impact would be limited.

“Frequently, something out of the
blue like this, an extraordinary event, really creates a buying opportunity,” he
said. “I have seen that happen in the United States, I have seen that happen
around the world. I don’t think Japan will be an exception.”

Mr. Buffett is not alone in his
optimism.

“I saw lots of buying last week by
overseas investors,” said Yoji Takeda, director of Asian equities at RBC
Investment (Asia) in Hong Kong.

“I tend to agree with Mr. Buffett
for the long term,” he said. “I suppose the economy will be weaker over the
short term but reconstruction spending will eventually help.”

Even without the damage and fear
inflicted by the nuclear accident, which followed the earthquake and tsunami,
Economy Minister Kaoru Yosano has said the cost of rebuilding the damaged north-eastern
coast of Honshu, the largest of Japan’s islands, could be more than $247
billion.

The World Bank said it might take
Japan as long as five years to rebuild at a cost of up to $235 billion.

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