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December 28, 2016

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Japan posts 9th monthly consumer prices drop

JAPAN’S consumer prices fell for the ninth straight month in November, official data showed yesterday, while household spending declined and unemployment ticked up.

It was a further blow to efforts from the government and the Bank of Japan to pump up the world’s third-largest economy with massive public spending and aggressive monetary easing.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came to office in late 2012 and launched a growth plan — a mix of massive monetary easing, government spending and red-tape slashing.

But economists are increasingly writing off the “Abenomics” spend-for-growth policy.

Core consumer prices shed 0.4 percent year on year, the internal affairs ministry said.

There was a forecast of a 0.3 percent fall among private economists.

Tokyo officials have blamed external factors, such as falling energy prices and uncertainty related to emerging economies, for their failure to achieve a promised 2 percent inflation target.

Last month, the central bank said it expected to hit 2 percent inflation by March 2019 — four years later than its original target and the latest in a string of delays.

Under deflation, general price falls can discourage companies from making capital investments, while also slowing production.

Deflation can also discourage spending by consumers, who might postpone purchases until prices drop further or save money, creating further pressure on businesses.

“When you look at CPI along with the consumer spending data, you see domestic demand itself is weak,” Hiroaki Muto, chief economist at Tokai Tokyo Research Centre, told Bloomberg News.

“Exports and production are recovering but consumers haven’t loosened their purse strings,” he said.

“I don’t see anywhere the kind of dynamism that will make two percent inflation achievable,” Muto said.

The ministry also said Japan’s household spending fell for the ninth straight month, declining 1.5 percent in November from a year earlier.

Japan’s jobless rate edged up to 3.1 percent in November from the 3 percent registered in October, the ministry said.


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