Reuters
Reuters

HONG KONG (Reuters Breakingviews) – In 1883 German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote of a character he called “the last man”. The opposite of his ideal “Ubermensch”, last men are so enervated and addicted to comfort, they lose their ability to dream and their will to compete. To Japanese conservatives, Nietzsche might have been describing Japan during the lost decades that followed the bursting of its financial bubble in the early 1990s: a pacifist, embarrassed, ageing irrelevance overshadowed by rising China. Until Shinzo Abe came along.

In “The Iconoclast: Shinzo Abe and the New Japan” Tobias Harris delivers an engaging review of the extraordinary career of Japan’s longest-serving prime minister. He was the heir to a conservative political dynasty, he dragged the country out of deflation, partially remilitarised it, and reconfigured the state in the process. Harris, an analyst at Teneo Intelligence who briefly served as private secretary to Japanese politician Keiichiro Asao, delivers a positive, nuanced assessment. However, readers less grounded in Japan’s political history might benefit from some background reading before wading in. (Who, exactly, were the “right-wing socialists”?)

Abe, who announced his retirement for health reasons in August, reinforced Tokyo’s position as Washington’s premier ally in Asia, and managed the relationship with a semi-hostile Donald Trump surprisingly well. When the White House abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, Abe took the lead, ratifying a deal that lowered trade barriers between major economies in Asia and the Americas. He reinforced Japan’s position as a source of investment and aid to poorer neighbours as an alternative to China’s “Belt and Road” initiative.

Abe has handed the reins to Yoshihide Suga, a long-time ally who helped craft the combination of unorthodox monetary policy, fiscal stimulus and reform that came to be known as Abenomics. The new prime minister has

By Maya Nikolaeva

PARIS, Oct 7 (Reuters)Frederic Oudea promised Societe Generale investors “growth with lower risk” after he became chief executive in 2008, the year a rogue trader lost billions in equity derivatives and brought the French bank close to collapse.

Fast forward a decade and SocGen’s share price is at a record low and the bank’s market capitalisation 78% lower than where it was when Oudea took over, after losses on complex investment products wiped out equity trading revenue in the first and second quarters of 2020.

“The current valuation of SocGen makes no sense,” Oudea, whose term expires in 2023, told Reuters.

The bank’s share price, which closed up 6.7% at 12.2 euros on Tuesday, gives it a market capitalisation of about 10 billion euros ($11.8 billion), around a quarter of that of rival BNP Paribas BNPP.PA and half that of Credit Agricole CAGR.PA.

Oudea has responded to the latest set-back by overhauling the top management at France’s third-largest largest bank and is once again focused on delivering lower risk growth.

The 57-year-old Parisian says that a revamped markets unit, coupled with an end to the European Central Bank’s ban on dividend payments, which limits how banks can reward their shareholders, and a restructuring of SocGen’s retail business can reverse the situation.

“The situation should be very different in three or four quarters,” Oudea, who is the longest-serving current CEO of a major European bank, said during a meeting at SocGen’s modernist twin tower offices in the La Defense district of Paris.

“We have recently confirmed our guidance to deliver improved performances in the second half, in particular regarding our equity business, and have launched a promising study to create a new leading retail bank in France,” he said.

In 2010, Oudea said lowering

FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a protective mask stands in front of the headquarters of Bank of Japan amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Tokyo, Japan, May 22, 2020.REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

TOKYO (Reuters) – Some Bank of Japan board members called for a review of the central bank’s policy strategy as the economic shock caused by the coronavirus pandemic pushes inflation further away from its target, a summary of opinions from a September meeting showed.

Those views underline the increasingly tough position the BOJ finds itself in, as inflation had failed to gain momentum even before the coronavirus ravaged Japan’s economy.

A few of the board members said the central bank may need to find a new approach to fire up inflation toward its 2% target, given the pandemic’s sweeping impact on companies and households.

“As economic developments change rapidly, it’s becoming hard to foresee inflation reaching our target. It’s thus necessary to conduct again a comprehensive examination of our strategy for achieving the price goal,” one member said.

“We may need to debate the appropriate monetary policy path from the perspective of how to balance the need to contain the pandemic and keep the economy alive,” according to another opinion shown in the summary.

Some others said the BOJ must act “promptly” and in close cooperation with the government if the pandemic’s scars deepen, according to the summary released on Tuesday.

The BOJ kept policy steady in September and offered a slightly more upbeat view of the economy than in July, suggesting that no immediate expansion of stimulus was needed.

But BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda has said the central bank would work closely with new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s administration to shield the economy from the broadening fallout of the pandemic, including by loosening policy further.

The BOJ releases