Key Japan economic index falls, government changes view to ‘worsening’

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo earlier said he was ready to take ‘all possible steps’ if risks to the economy intensified following a sales tax hike and rising global uncertainty. (Reuters)
Updated 07 October 2019

Key Japan economic index falls, government changes view to ‘worsening’

  • Concerns have risen as the US-China trade dispute and slowing external demand dent Japan’s economic recovery
  • The last time the government gave a “worsening” assessment was for April data

TOKYO: A key Japanese economic index fell in August and the government on Monday downgraded its view to “worsening,” indicating the export-reliant economy might face slipping into recession.
Concerns have risen as the US-China trade dispute and slowing external demand dent Japan’s economic recovery.
The index of coincident economic indicators, which consists of a range of data including factory output, employment and retail sales data, slipped a preliminary 0.4 point in August from the previous month, the Cabinet Office said on Monday.
The separate index for leading economic indicators, a gauge of the economy a few months ahead that’s compiled using data such as job offers and consumer sentiment, dropped 2.0 points from July, the Cabinet Office said.
The last time the government gave a “worsening” assessment was for April data.
The downgrade could add to speculation the government will hike spending, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday said he was ready to take “all possible steps” if risks to the economy intensified following a sales tax hike and rising global uncertainty.
Japan rolled out a twice-delayed increase in the sales tax to 10 percent from 8 percent on Oct. 1. The move is seen as critical for fixing the country’s tattered finances but could tip the economy, hurt by the US-China trade war and weak external demand, into recession.
For April-June, Japan reported growth of 0.3 percent from the previous quarter. The last time Japan was in a technical recession, defined as two consecutive quarters of contraction, was the second half of 2015.
In recent months, the government’s assessment on the coincident index was that the economy likely stopped falling.
The government will later examine the economy comprehensively with professors and economists on a panel and officially define the country’s economic cycle.
Japan’s growth has slowed as the US-China trade dispute hit the country’s exports, sending big manufacturers sentiment — as measured by the Bank of Japan’s tankan survey — to a six-year low in the July-September quarter.
Market expectations for more policy easing by the Bank of Japan have increased after the central bank signaled its readiness to expand stimulus as early as its Oct. 30-31 meeting.


Oil prices fall but losses limited by Brexit deal hopes

Updated 35 min 57 sec ago

Oil prices fall but losses limited by Brexit deal hopes

  • US retail sales in September fell for the first time in seven months adding to economy fears

LONDON: Oil prices fell on Thursday as industry data showed a larger than expected increase in US inventories but losses were limited after Britain and the EU announced they had reached a deal on Brexit.

Global benchmark Brent crude was down 37 cents at $59.05 in afternoon London trade while US WTI crude was also down 37 cents, at $52.99.

US crude inventories soared by 10.5 million barrels to 432.5 million barrels in the week to Oct. 11, the American Petroleum Institute’s weekly report showed, ahead of official government stocks data.

Analysts had estimated US crude inventories rose by 2.8 million barrels last week.

“US sanctions imposed on Chinese shipping company COSCO are seriously denting demand for imported crude ... This has a profound impact on US crude oil inventories as reflected in last night’s API report,” said Tamas Varga, an analyst at PVM Oil Associates.

“US refinery maintenance is not helping to reverse the current trend and further builds in US crude oil inventories can be expected in the next few weeks.”

The US imposed sanctions on COSCO Shipping Tanker (Dalian) and subsidiary COSCO Shipping Tanker (Dalian) Seaman & Ship Management for allegedly carrying Iranian oil.

Adding to concerns about the global economy — and therefore oil demand — data from the US showed retail sales in September fell for the first time in seven months. Earlier data showed a moderation in job growth and services sector activity.

Nevertheless, Brexit developments helped limit oil’s decline. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain and the EU had agreed a “great” new deal and urged lawmakers to approve it when they meet for a special session at the weekend.

Analysts have said any agreement that avoids a no-deal Brexit should boost economic growth and oil demand.

However, the Northern Irish party whose support Johnson needs to help ratify any agreement, has said that it refused to support the pact.

Hopes of a potential US-China trade deal also supported oil. The commerce ministry in Beijing said China hoped to reach a phased agreement with Washington as early as possible.

But the German government has lowered its 2020 forecast for economic growth to 1 percent from 1.5 percent, the economy ministry said. It said Germany, Europe’s largest economy, was not facing a crisis.