Signs spread of virus slowing, opposition party merger

While it’s too early to jump to any firm conclusions, the slowing spread of the virus over the past week lends support to our view that the economy will be able to rebound strongly in the second half of the year. But with the number of coronavirus patients with serious symptoms rising fast – lagging the earlier surge in cases – further states of emergency at the local and national level or a tightening of restrictions remain a possibility.
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 Data Response

Japan Wages & Household Spending (May 2021)

While the further acceleration in wage growth in May was again largely down to favourable base effects, we think wage growth will stay elevated as the labour market tightens and vaccines fuel a further recovery in overtime pay. Meanwhile, the only modest drop in household spending in May suggests that consumer spending may have edged up last quarter.

6 July 2021

Japan Data Response

Bank of Japan Tankan (Q2 2021)

The further rebound in the Q2 Tankan supports our view that the economy’s disappointing start to the year won’t prevent vaccines driving a strong rebound in the second half of the year. And firms’ upbeat capital spending plans bolster our view that business investment will soon recover sharply.

1 July 2021

Japan Economics Focus

Transition to carbon neutral 2050 wouldn’t harm growth

Achieving net zero emissions in Japan in three decades is a difficult but achievable task. And while the most carbon-intensive sectors may face significant headwinds, overall we agree with PM Suga that economic growth wouldn’t have to be sacrificed to reach his goal of a carbon neutral 2050.

29 June 2021
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