GDP will soon be back at pre-virus path

The strong rise in output in Q4 2020 to just 1.2% below Q4 2019 levels bolsters our view that Japan’s economy will be back to the level it reached before the tax hike and close to its pre-virus path by mid-2022. Daily virus cases have plummeted over the past month and the vaccination programme which kicked off this week will reduce the potential for future waves of infections and deaths once most of the vulnerable have been vaccinated around three months from now. As such, the economy should shrug of a soft Q1 as spending on services recovers. And while there are downside risks from new virus waves and new variants more resistant to vaccines, there are also upside risks to our above-consensus forecasts. The household savings rate surged last year, averaging around 11%. That’s the highest it’s been since the 1990s and we expect it to remain elevated over our forecast horizon. But there’s the possibility that households release pent-up demand and run down their accumulated savings faster than we’re expecting. As such, there’s a small chance that GDP could temporarily rise above its pre-virus path.
Tom Learmouth Japan Economist
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Japan Economics Weekly

Kishida dissolves parliament, firms look to seniors

The ruling LDP appears to be bracing for a slimming down of its lower house majority in the general election that will take place on 31st October. That would make tangible structural reform progress under PM Kishida even less likely. And while a large fiscal stimulus package will be compiled immediately after the election, it’s likely to sustain the elevated fiscal support of the past year rather than act as a fresh driver of growth. Meanwhile, firms appear to be readying themselves for renewed labour shortages once the economy reopens by drawing up plans to re-employ more seniors. We expect further increases in over-60s employment to drive labour force participation higher over the next few years.

15 October 2021

Japan Data Response

Japan Machinery Orders (Aug. 2021)

The fall in machinery orders in August supports our view that the recovery in business investment stalled a little across Q3. But private investment should rebound more strongly in Q4 and into next year provided vaccines allow economic activity to return to somewhere near normal.

13 October 2021

Japan Economics Update

Why is inflation still so low in Japan?

The continued weakness in Japan’s inflation is partly due to the recent plunge in mobile phone tariffs and the long lags between global energy prices and household utility bills. Indeed, inflation is set to rise next year. But more muted cost pressures in manufacturing than in other advanced economies coupled with the reluctance of Japanese firms to raise output prices mean that inflation won’t surge as it has elsewhere.

12 October 2021

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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