As Investors Dump Japan ETFs, Jefferies Sees Room for Optimism

(Bloomberg) -- Investors in Japan’s exchange-traded funds are finally saying uncle -- but don’t count out the nation’s stocks just yet.

ETFs in the country saw $4.39 billion in outflows for the week of April 12 to 18, the first time since last December the asset class saw such an exodus, according to EPFR data compiled by Jefferies Hong Kong. During that 19-week streak, Japanese ETFs had seen $47.5 billion in inflows.

“Japan saw the most significant withdrawals in recent history,” Jefferies strategists Tommy Tang and Kenneth Chan said in an April 23 note. “Switching away from the U.S. benefited Japan -- a phenomenon frequently observed over the past quarter but this saw a turnaround last week.”

Yet the latest reversal isn’t necessarily a bearish warning sign for sentiment. Analyzing four- and 13-week returns of the MSCI Japan Index in dollar terms after the 10 biggest withdrawals since 2010, the strategists found the gauge actually posted a positive average return overall and gains in six out of the 10 instances.

As Investors Dump Japan ETFs, Jefferies Sees Room for Optimism

The latest rebound may already be coming, with foreign investors pumping in about $2.3 billion into Japan stocks in the three weeks through April 13, while the benchmark Topix Index is currently on track for its first monthly gain since January. Easing geopolitical tensions in recent weeks have cooled the yen’s ascent against the dollar, boosting corporate profit sentiment.

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