Japan business mood stagnates on global uncertainties

Pedestrians look at share prices from the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo on June 28.
Pedestrians look at share prices from the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo on June 28. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japanese manufacturers' confidence was unchanged in June from three months ago, while consumer prices fell in May in discouraging signs for a fragile economy as it grapples with a strong yen and slack overseas demand.

Adding to uncertainty, concerns about the global economy have heightened after Britain voted last week to leave the European Union, roiling financial markets and sparking fears that one of Japan's biggest export markets could fall into recession.

Separate data on Friday (July 1) showed core consumer prices fell 0.4 per cent in May from a year earlier, marking the fastest drop since 2013 and keeping the Bank of Japan under pressure to expand monetary stimulus next month.

The BOJ's closely-watched quarterly tankan survey showed the headline index for big manufacturers' sentiment stood at plus 6, unchanged from three months and better than a median market forecast of plus 4.

A vast majority of companies polled replied before Britain's referendum on the EU, which knocked Tokyo shares and briefly pushed the dollar below 100 yen for the first time since 2013.

Big non-manufacturers' sentiment index worsened to plus 19 from plus 22, the survey showed.

Big firms plan to increase capital expenditure by 6.2 per cent for the current fiscal year ending in March 2017, up from plans to cut capital spending by 0.9 per cent in the March survey.

Japan's economy expanded at the fastest pace in a year in the first quarter but analysts say growth will not pick up much for the rest of this year as slow wage gains weigh on consumption. External headwinds, such as weak emerging market demand and the yen's gains, also cloud the outlook for exports.