What Is a Japanese Government Bond (JGB)?
A Japanese Government Bond (JGB) is a bond issued by the government of Japan. The government pays interest on the bond until the maturity date. At the maturity date, the full price of the bond is returned to the bondholder. Japanese government bonds play a key role in the financial securities market in Japan.
- Japanese government bonds (JGBs) are bonds issued by the Japanese government and have become a key part of the country's central bank efforts to boost inflation.
- There are three key types of JGBs—general bonds, Fiscal Investment and Loan Program bonds, and subsidy bonds.
- JGBs are similar to U.S. Treasuries in that they are backed by the national government and low-risk.
Understanding Japanese Government Bonds (JGBs)
Japanese government bonds (JGBs) have various maturities ranging from 2 years to 40 years. Fixed coupon payments are determined at the time of issuance and are paid on a semi-annual basis until the security matures.
There are four kinds of Japanese government bonds (JGBs):
- General bonds, such as construction bonds and debt financing bonds.
- Fiscal Investment and Loan Program (FILP) bonds, which can be used to raise funds for the investment of the Fiscal Loan Fund.
- Reconstruction bonds.
- Refunding bonds.
A decline in liquidity in the JGB market has been observed in recent years due to the aggressive monetary actions of the central bank—the Bank of Japan (BoJ). In 2013, the Bank of Japan began buying up billions of dollars of Japanese government bonds, flooding the economy with cash in an effort to propel the country’s low annual inflation rate toward its 2% target. To keep the yield on ten-year JGBs close to zero, a rise in the yield of these bonds triggers a buy action from the BoJ.
As of 2020, the central bank owns over 48% of Japanese government bonds. There is an inverse relationship between interest rates and bond prices, which are dictated by supply and demand in the markets. Heavy buying of JGBs increases the demand for the bonds, which leads to an increase in the price of the bonds. The price increase forces down the bond yield, an essential element of the central bank’s ultra-loose yield curve control (YCC) policy, which was designed to help increase the profits that Japanese banks could earn from lending money.
The Bank of Japan implemented the yield curve control in 2016 in an effort to keep the yield on its ten-year JGB at zero and to steepen the yield curve. The yield curve steepens when the spread between short-term interest rates, which are negative in Japan, and long-term rates increase. The wider spread in interest rates creates opportunities to arbitrage profits, which is advantageous for banks in Japan.
In 2021, the Bank of Japan reduced its bond-buying and began announcing purchases on a quarterly, rather than a monthly, schedule. Reportedly this happened because the policy of aggressively targeting 0% yields had led to stagnant trading in the bond market. By reducing intervention in the bond market, the bank hoped to encourage more active trading.
Japanese Government Bonds (JGBs) vs. U.S. Treasuries
Japanese government bonds (JGBs) are very much like U.S. Treasury securities. They are fully backed by the Japanese government, making them a very popular investment among low-risk investors and a useful investment among high-risk investors as a way to balance the risk factor of their portfolios. Like U.S. savings bonds, they have high levels of credit and liquidity, which further adds to their popularity. Furthermore, the price and yield at which JGBs trade is used as a benchmark against which other, riskier debt in the country is valued.