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Domestic lockdown eased as global outlook worsens

Rapidly rising infection numbers in Europe and North America have prompted many government in those countries to roll out strict nationwide lockdowns. By contrast, there were signs of Japan’s already loose lockdown being relaxed this week. Unfortunately, the picture is much bleaker for external demand. We now expect exports to fall by more than during the global financial crisis in Q2 and have sharply revised down our GDP forecast.
Tom Learmouth Japan Economist
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Japan Chart Book

Output will return to pre-virus trend eventually

With a record virus wave sweeping across the country and consumer confidence slumping, we’re slashing our forecast for Q3 consumption growth from 0.8% to 0.2%. While the government has refrained from declaring another state of emergency, spending was weakening even before virus cases started to surge. That means that GDP will remain much weaker in the near term than the pre-pandemic trend, forcing the Bank of Japan to keep policy loose even as central banks elsewhere are tightening the screws. However, we still expect that gap to close eventually, for two reasons. First, while the long-running rise in the labour force participation rate stalled over the last couple of years, the share of the population available for paid employment is now on the rise again. What’s more, mobility has recently reached pre-virus levels for the first time since the start of the pandemic, which suggests that households are learning to live with the virus even if currently they are not spending as before. The still very high household savings rate should fall in earnest before long.

8 August 2022

Japan Economics Weekly

The rise and fall of Japan's energy imports

Japan is still struggling to wean itself off fossil fuels despite a new government push to boost solar power. However, the country has become more energy efficient over the past decade, which has helped the economy weather the impact of rising global energy prices. Meanwhile, the government has recommended a 3.3% rise in the minimum wage, the largest move on record. While overall wage growth would get a boost over the next year, we think it would still remain well below the 3.0% level the BoJ maintains is needed to sustain inflation above its 2.0% target  

5 August 2022

Japan Data Response

Japan Labour Cash Earnings (Jun. 22)

The jump in wage growth in June was mostly driven by a surge in summer bonus payments and the Bank of Japan’s 3% wage growth target will remain out of reach for a while yet. More positively, the strength in overtime hours suggests that Japan is finally learning to live with the virus.

5 August 2022

More from Tom Learmouth

Japan Data Response

Japan Trade (May 2021) & Machinery Orders (Apr.)

Despite the spectacular y/y growth rates in May, the rebound in exports is showing signs of slowing. Indeed, we doubt external demand will provide much of a tailwind to growth over the coming months as global consumer goods demand weakens in the wake of vaccine rollouts. Meanwhile, the muted rise in machinery orders in April supports our view that business investment will have trodden water this quarter.

16 June 2021

Japan Economics Weekly

Vaccines for all by November, ¥1000 minimum wage

The revised Q1 GDP figures and April wage data released this week suggest the economy was a little more resilient than first appeared in the early part of this year. And the economy is looking increasingly well set for a strong rebound in the second half of the year. Daily COVID cases and the number of patients in hospital have continued to plunge. With 98% of Japan’s municipalities expecting to be able to meet the government’s target of finishing vaccinations for the over-65s by end-July, the risk of the healthcare system being stretched to breaking point again is diminishing. The only remaining major downside risk now is the prospect of a more infectious variant – such as that first found in India – taking hold rapidly soon.

11 June 2021

Bank of Japan Watch

Asset purchases to remain low but rates on hold

At its June meeting we think the Bank of Japan may extend the deadline on its emergency lending facility from September to December. Beyond that point, it should further taper its purchases of short-dated debt as it digs in for a prolonged hold.

11 June 2021
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