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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.  
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.

12 August 2022

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.

8 August 2022

More from Tom Learmouth

Japan Economics Update

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

Japan Labour Cash Earnings (Mar. 22)

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.

9 May 2022

Japan Economics Weekly

2.5% inflation, border to reopen to tourists in June

Despite a huge pot of excess savings accumulated over the past couple of years, today’s 2.5% inflation print for April is likely to slow the post-Omicron recovery by spooking consumers not used to price hikes. Meanwhile, we doubt PM Kishida’s announcement yesterday that he will reopen the border to tourists in June will do much to repair Japan’s shrinking current account surplus given that Chinese tourists won’t be returning any time soon. As such, we still expect the yen to weaken further to 140 against the dollar by the end of this year. 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.

6 May 2022
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