Japan consumer prices, household spending raise doubts about inflation

 Japan's household spending was unchanged in October from a year earlier in price-adjusted real terms, compared with economists' median estimate of a 0.4 per cent annual decline.
Japan's household spending was unchanged in October from a year earlier in price-adjusted real terms, compared with economists' median estimate of a 0.4 per cent annual decline.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japan's core consumer prices rose in October from a year earlier to mark the 10th straight month of gains, but a narrower measure that excludes energy showed inflation has not accelerated for three consecutive months.

Household spending was unchanged in October from a year ago as increased spending on mobile phone plans offset a decline in spending on travel.

Separate data released on Friday (Dec 1) showed capital expenditure rose strongly in the third quarter, suggesting an upward revision to gross domestic product growth.

While buoyant capital expenditure numbers align with policymakers' views that economic momentum is firm, the consumer price and household spending numbers suggest the Bank of Japan may face difficulties in meeting its 2 per cent inflation target.

"Consumer prices are not accelerating because companies aren't changing their behaviour," said Hiromu Uezato, economist at Mizuho Research Institute.

"Companies are still reluctant to raise prices. The household spending data also shows the trend isn't that strong." The nationwide core consumer price index, which includes oil products but excludes volatile fresh food prices, rose 0.8 per cent in October from a year ago, due to gains in gasoline, kerosene, and healthcare costs, data showed on Friday.

That matched the median forecast in a Reuters poll and followed a 0.7 per cent increase in the year to September.

Stripping away the effect of fresh food and energy, so-called core-core consumer prices rose 0.2 per cent in October from a year ago, matching the respective increases clocked in September and August and raising concerns that inflationary pressures are not increasing.

Household spending was unchanged in October from a year earlier in price-adjusted real terms, compared with economists'median estimate of a 0.4 per cent annual decline.

Compared with the previous month, household spending fell 2.0 per cent, more than the median estimate for a 1.4 per cent decline.

Japan's jobless rate held steady at 2.8 per cent in October and the availability of jobs reached the highest in almost 44 years, separate data showed.

Capital expenditure rose 4.2 per cent in July-September, faster than a 1.5 per cent gain in April-June, another report from the finance ministry showed.

The capex data, which the government uses to calculate revised gross domestic product (GDP), suggests growth will be revised up. The government is scheduled to release revised GDP on Dec 8.