Analysts expect Hitachi's earnings to decline in 2012. I find that hard to believe given the massive stimulus that will be unleashed upon the country. Furthermore, as is the case with Kyocera, Hitachi sells at a discount to the market multiple. I value shares of Hitachi at least at their recent high of $65.
We can also go with a fund strategy. Two exchange-traded funds give you diversified exposure to the broader Japanese markets. The most actively traded Japanese ETF is the
iShares MSCI Japan
, which focuses on large-capitalization Japanese stocks. The iShares family of funds also offers an ETF, which directly correlates to the Tokyo Stock Price Index, or TOPIX: the
iShares S&P TOPIX 150
. I would note that the iShares TPIX 150 is far less actively traded and hence has less liquidity than the iShares MSCI Japan.
I am going to pass on both of those ETFs in favor of a closed-ended fund. The fund I have my eye on is the
Japan Smaller-Capitalization Fund
. As its name implies, this fund focuses on smaller-cap companies. My opinion is that any massive effort to rebuild Japan, especially with governmental stimulus, will be focused not just on the large companies as I mentioned before but also on smaller and regional companies. The Japan Smaller-Cap Fund will enable investors to benefit from the spreading of reconstruction money across the entire country and economy. I would also note that this closed-ended fund trades at a small discount to net asset value of about 2%. In other words, for every $98 you invest in the fund, you are getting $100 of assets.
The Japanese market and its related stocks and funds are quite heavily oversold. Opportunities are presenting themselves, but there is no urgency to rush in right now. The situation in Japan, especially as it relates to the reactors of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, is very tenuous. A further deterioration of the condition at that facility will likely lead to further market weakness. A resolution of that crisis will likely mark a stabilization of the financial markets. However, we cannot predict what outcome will occur or when. We do know that the road to recovery will be long and protracted.
Hence, the strategy for opportunistic stock pickers is to identify some target stocks or funds now and be prepared to act when we have more clarity as to the resolution of the nuclear crisis, because that will mark the beginning of the reconstruction process.
-- Written by Scott Rothbort in Millburn, N.J.
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