Consumer spending to fall across Q3

The latest high-frequency data point to the relentless surge in new coronavirus cases starting to weigh heavily on consumer activity this month. And with full-blown emergency declarations to be expanded to cover around 80% of Japan’s economy from Friday, we now expect consumer spending to fall across Q3 which should cause GDP to once again tread water.
Tom Learmouth Japan Economist
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Japan Chart Book

Hit to output from staff absences could be hard

Skyrocketing infections and a 10-day isolation requirement for close contacts of positive cases have resulted in a wave of staff absences in Japan. Domestic carmakers already struggling with chip shortages appear to have been among the first victims of strict isolation rules. Both Toyota and Honda were forced to close some production lines at the end of last week due to staff absences. Based on the National Institute of Infectious Disease’s analysis suggesting that each positive case has up to five close contacts, Nikkei estimates that 1.8 million people could be self-isolating by the end of the month. Assuming those in and out of the workforce are equally affected, that would translate into 1.3% of workers in Japan self-isolating. Despite a much lower caseload, that would be similar to staff absences in other advanced economies where we estimate that between 0.5% and 2% of workers are isolating. And with timely data provided by the Cabinet Office pointing to a surge in job vacancies at the end of the year, the wave of staff absences appears to be hitting just as firms are struggling to find new staff. Temporary hits to production from staff shortages will cause GDP to only tread water this quarter.

24 January 2022

Japan Data Response

Japan Flash PMIs (Jan. 2022)

The January flash PMI suggests that the manufacturing sector continues to expand at a rapid pace, but there are mounting signs that firms are passing on higher input costs to consumers. By contrast, activity in the services sector has slumped.

24 January 2022

Japan Economics Weekly

Restrictions may not last long, key Shunto approaching

With restrictions this week expanded to cover most of Japan’s economy, and surging infections already starting to cause staff shortages in some industries, GDP is only likely to tread water this quarter. But based on experience elsewhere, the Omicron surge may only last another couple of weeks before staff shortages ease and countermeasures start to be lifted again. Meanwhile, reports suggesting that Toyota’s labour union – sometimes seen as a bellwether in wage talks – will seek a sharp rise in bonus payments at this year’s Shunto could be an early sign that wage growth will pick up this year in line with PM Kishida’s wishes.

21 January 2022

More from Tom Learmouth

Japan Chart Book

Strong Q4 still on the cards

With daily cases surging to unprecedented levels and states of emergency extended to mid-September this week, there may not seem to be much light at the end of the tunnel for Japan’s economy. However, we’re cautiously optimistic that a strong recovery is just around the corner. Japan’s vaccine coverage is now not far off the rates seen in DMs where most domestic restrictions have already been “permanently” lifted. PM Suga outlined this week that he’s targeting getting 50% of the population fully vaccinated by the end of this month, and 60% by end-September. The vaccine rollout has progressed rapidly over the past couple of months and is broadly on track to meet those targets. The UK’s vaccination rate was only 53% when the last domestic restrictions were removed in England. Hospitalisations and deaths have remained contained in the UK despite daily cases peaking as high as 50,000-a-day. Even in Singapore – where virus containment measures have been far more heavy-handed than in Japan – domestic and border restrictions are being eased now that the vaccination rate has reached 70%. Japan should get to 70% by around late-October. Even if the Japanese government did wait until then to remove most domestic restrictions, it would still come in time for GDP to rebound strongly next quarter.

20 August 2021

Japan Economics Weekly

Drag from emergency measures fading

While new virus cases and hospitalisations have hit record-highs this week, the rebound in services consumption in Q2 suggests that households are getting increasingly blasé about state of emergency declarations. One small downside risk are part shortages resulting from virus disruptions in Southeast Asian suppliers. But given that Japan is on track to reach vaccination levels that have prompted other large advanced economies to ease virus restrictions by the end of this quarter, any setback in manufacturing will probably be overwhelmed by a further recovery in services.

20 August 2021

Japan Data Response

Japan Consumer Prices (Jul. 2021)

While headline inflation rose in July due to a pickup in energy inflation, it’s far weaker than the figure initially reported for June due to the introduction of a new CPI basket this month knocking off 0.7%pts from the y/y rate. Blocking out that noise though we think inflation will temporarily spike over the coming months due to upwards pressure on goods prices from supply shortages and the release of pent-up demand in the services sector.

20 August 2021
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