After years of wandering in the wilderness, Japanese stocks are leading the world’s developed markets higher in what has been a robust opening half of the year. The table shows Japan leading the world’s ten largest developed markets (as measured by the MSCI family of international indexes) with a 24% local currency return through June, easily outpacing the pack. Even as the MSCI USA index gained 17% by successfully “fighting the Fed” this year, Japan surged another 7% beyond that outstanding result. We were curious to understand the nature of Japan’s spectacular run in 2023, looking to identify the drivers of this strong and relatively quick jump higher.
Equity factors are characteristics that have historically generated excess returns relative to the universe of stocks. However, in recent years factor returns have been underwhelming, causing investors to wonder if factors have become too popular, too crowded, or just plain obsolete. Then came the second quarter of 2022, when all six major factors outperformed the S&P 500, a feat only accomplished in four quarters over the last 27 years!