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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.
Marcel Thieliant Senior Japan, Australia & New Zealand Economist
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Japan Economics Weekly

Virus fears waning, Bank of Japan plans could change

We doubt that the spike in mobility during Golden Week is a harbinger of a rapid rebound in consumer spending. Mounting concerns about rising living costs and lingering virus fears among the elderly will keep the savings rate well above pre-virus levels. Meanwhile, the Bank of Japan this week ruled out widening the tolerance band around its 10-year yield target. However, markets remain unconvinced as yields continue to trade close to the ceiling of the band. We still expect the Bank to come under renewed pressure to defend the target, eventually forcing it to widen the tolerance band.  

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Large pot of pandemic savings to collect dust

The hit to household incomes from higher inflation will be much smaller in Japan than elsewhere and consumers have plenty of pandemic forced savings to tap into to sustain spending. But we nonetheless expect the rebound in consumption to disappoint over the coming months as consumers are spooked by rare price hikes to everyday items and some remain wary of catching the virus. China Drop-In (12th May, 09:00 BST/16:00 SGT): Join our China and Markets economists for a 20-minute discussion about near to long-term economic challenges, from zero-COVID disruptions to US-China decoupling. Register now.

11 May 2022

Japan Data Response

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Nominal wage growth stayed at 1.2% in March and we think it could touch 2% over the coming months as overtime and bonus payments get back to their pre-virus levels. But with base pay growth still weak, we think overall wage growth will fall back to 1% before long. China Drop-In (12th May, 09:00 BST/16:00 SGT): Join our China and Markets economists for a 20-minute discussion about near to long-term economic challenges, from zero-COVID disruptions to US-China decoupling. Register now.

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More from Marcel Thieliant

Australia & New Zealand Economic Outlook

Rising inflationary pressures to prompt tightening

Domestic demand is set to rebound from recent lockdowns and labour markets should remain tight. Meanwhile, soaring energy and food prices will keep inflation high for a prolonged period. To be sure, the Reserve Bank of Australia won’t respond to high headline inflation until wage growth picks up in earnest. However, with severe staff shortages and limited immigration, the bargaining position of workers is strong and we expect Australia’s wage growth to reach 3% by the end of next year. We expect the RBNZ to hike rates to 1.5% next year and the RBA to start lifting rates in early-2023.

14 October 2021

Australia & New Zealand Data Response

Australia Labour Market (Sep.)

While employment plunged yet again in September, hours worked started to rebound and the end of lockdowns will result in a rapid recovery in the labour market over coming months.

14 October 2021

Australia & New Zealand Economics Update

Structural slowdown in China a key threat to Australia

Australia’s exports to China are even more vulnerable to a slowdown in the property sector than they were before the trade spat as iron ore has gained in importance. We think that China’s steel demand will fall before long and even if it doesn’t, a shift to electric arc furnaces is a big threat to Australian miners.

13 October 2021
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