Japan's stock market peaked 25 years ago today

japan nikkei index

You can't blame Japan for wanting to bring back just about everything from the 1980s.

Around the time the Berlin Wall was coming down and Madonna was climbing the music charts, Japan was a powerhouse economy with a soaring stock market to match it.

But exactly 25 years ago -- on December 29, 1989, the Nikkei Index peaked at 38,915.87.

It hasn't come close to that level ever since -- in fact, it currently trades at less than half of that pinnacle.

Japan is a warning to the world of what can go horribly wrong economically.

Everyone thought they could get rich and the good times wouldn't stop. The banks gave out too much money without scrutinizing the loans. By the time Japan's Central Bank realized just how bad it was and raised interest rates to try to curb the lending, it was too late. The stock market and economy collapsed.

Related: McDonald's to end fry rationing in Japan

The 1990s have been dubbed the "Lost Decade" in Japan, but the reality is the same could be said for the decade after -- from 2000 to 2010.

nikkei

What's next for Japan? There's modest hope for Japan heading into the new year. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing through reforms on everything from taxes to government spending. Over the weekend, Abe signed a massive $29 billion stimulus package.

Investors are buying the promise of "Abenomics," even though the country's economy is still contracting.

The Nikkei is set to end the year up nearly 9% -- that's on par with the performance of the America's Dow Jones Index.

"We are optimistic that the insipid and patchy improvements to the Japanese economy that characterized 2014 will gradually broaden and strengthen through 2015," said Russell Investments in its 2015 Annual Outlook.

Related: Goverment spending could boost stocks

Merrill Lynch echoed that sentiment in its Outlook: "We think the combination of yen weakness and a less restrictive Japanese fiscal policy than in 2014 should boost profits and keep stocks moving higher."

But for many investors, Japan has been the engine that didn't rev for too long.

Consider that while the U.S. economy had a bubble of its own with the dot-com bust, the Nasdaq is now a mere 5% away from its March 2000 peak, and the S&P 500 surpassed its dot-com level back in 2007 and again in 2013.

Related: Nasdaq nearing 5,000 again

"It's really hard to see anything changing in the Japanese economic or policy outlook for 2015 -- more Abenomics is the only medicine on offer and if it's going to work, it will only do so slowly," wrote Kit Juckes of Societe General in a note Monday.

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