October 31, 2008 / 8:32 AM / 10 years ago

Small investors offer hope for Japan market gloom

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Stocks in Japan fell to their lowest in decades this week, but seasoned punter Heiichiro Kase is far from discouraged.

People look at an electronic board displaying share prices at a securities company in Tokyo October 30, 2008. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao(JAPAN)

He’s lost some money, but the 74-year-old retiree is still buying shares, hoping to make more money to add to his pension income.

“It’s time to buy. Stocks are cheap now,” said Kase. “I’ve actually bought some shares recently. I did pretty well two days ago, though I lost money today.”

Kase was one of over 300 mostly elderly men at an investment seminar held just blocks from the Tokyo Stock Exchange this week, a turnout that shows many retail investors are not about to give up on the market any time soon.

Clutching brochures and giveaways from brokerages, the crowd listened intently as guest speakers spoke about Japanese blue chips, covered warrants and other promising picks that could help them weather the market storm.

“I just bought stocks today,” said Yukihisa Koshikawa, 69, hurrying back into the packed room after a brief break. “When everyone is pessimistic about the market, it’s a sign to buy.”

Seasoned small investors are not the only ones buying stocks, online brokerages say, offering hope for the Tokyo market where the main stock average fell to a 26-year low on Tuesday.

Call centers have been swamped with queries from first-time investors on how to open accounts, while those holding never-used accounts have called up to retrieve forgotten passwords.

“We’re seeing a rise in beginners, people who have never invested in stocks before,” said Tachiki Jibu, spokesman for Matsui Securities Co.

The number of new accounts at Matsui has doubled this month from September, while the number of those requesting application forms to open accounts have trebled.

“We assume they heard on the news how stocks prices have gotten low and thought now was a good time to get into the market,” Jibu said.

Monex Group Inc, another online brokerage, has seen a similar rise in interest, with roughly 1,500 requests this week on a daily basis for material on how to start accounts, far more than the usual 400 to 500.

But some at the investment seminar, while eager to buy stocks, complained they had no more money to invest with, having sold their holdings at huge losses.

“People say, when the market goes down, it will go up again,” said one elderly man, an investor for 40 years who declined to give his name.

“But nothing like price earning ratios and technical analysis makes sense any more. It’s best not to get close to the market for now.”

Reporting by Chisa Fujioka; Editing by David Fox

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