Japan data deluge points to economic growth, weak inflation

A Japanese flag flutters atop the Bank of Japan building in Tokyo, Japan.
A Japanese flag flutters atop the Bank of Japan building in Tokyo, Japan.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (BLOOMBERG) - A flood of data released on Friday (April 28), the day after the Bank of Japan held its monetary policy unchanged, indicates that the modest recovery in the world's third-largest economy is continuing for a fifth quarter, yet inflation largely refuses to budge.

Consumer prices excluding fresh food, the core measure for inflation, increased 0.2 per cent in March from a year earlier.

The unemployment rate for March was 2.8 per cent.

Industrial production fell 2.1 per cent in March from the previous month, while retail sales climbed 2.1 per cent from a year ago.

The central bank has been unable to reach its target of stable 2 per cent inflation despite four years of stimulus from Governor Haruhiko Kuroda. With only subdued inflation, workers have not seen significant pay hikes, meaning household spending has been weak.

On the other hand, industrial production been increasing, thanks to a pick up in external demand, with the central bank saying the economy was in an expansion for the first time in about nine years. This has led to high corporate profits.

"The employment situation is definitely strong, while wage and income growth are still quite depressed," Takashi Miwa, chief economist at Nomura Securities, said on Bloomberg TV. "This is why consumption demand is still quite weak."

"The most important point is that wage gains are weak," said Takeshi Minami, chief economist at Norinchukin Research Institute. "The problem will loom over the prospects of raising a sales tax down the road."