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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.
Tom Learmouth Japan Economist
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Japan Economics Weekly

Demographic woes persist, tourists waiting at the gate

An exodus of long-term migrants contributed to the 0.6% fall in Japan’s population last year but with border controls loosened since March net migration is bouncing back strongly. Even so, we still see GDP growth settling around 0.5% over the longer-term as a shrinking workforce offsets productivity gains. Meanwhile, Japan remains a highly popular tourist destination and once the onerous procedural requirements for entry are lifted, probably sometime in Q4, tourist arrivals and spending should rebound strongly.

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Japan Economics Update

The implications of an escalating Taiwan crisis

The extent to which neighbouring countries would be affected by an escalation of tensions between China and Taiwan would depend both on which sides they take and on the nature of restrictions imposed by the West and China. ASEAN countries are most reliant on China both as a source of imported inputs as well as a destination for exports, while major disruptions to semiconductor production in Taiwan would severely restrain Japan’s manufacturing industry despite its smaller trade links with China.

10 August 2022

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.

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More from Tom Learmouth

Japan Data Response

Japan External Trade (Dec. 2021)

Exports were broadly stable in December after a sharp rebound in November. We think they’ll continue to recover at a decent pace this year as external demand for capital goods continues to rise and motor vehicle exports resume their recovery once Omicron waves subside.

20 January 2022

Japan Data Response

Japan Machinery Orders (Nov. 2021)

The rise in machinery orders in November supports our view that business investment recovered strongly across Q4. And private investment should continue to rebound strongly this year as firms look past a brief hit from Omicron.

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Japan Economics Weekly

Strict isolation rules could cause severe shortages

While we think Japan’s economy entered 2022 just above its pre-pandemic level, consumer spending will probably be knocked back this quarter by light-touch restrictions which are likely to be reimposed across most of the country within the next couple of weeks. Moreover, the added transmissibility of Omicron is likely to lead to a sizeable wave of staff absences in Japan. While PM Kishida is set to reduce the isolation period for coronavirus patients and their close contacts from 14 to 10 days, that would still be a strict isolation regime when compared with most Western countries. All told, we think Omicron will limit the economy to just a 0.2% q/q rise this quarter before a rebound in growth across Q2 and Q3.

14 January 2022
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