Shinzo Abe

Japan output slumps 1.7pc to post-quake low

Japan's lacklustre industrial output data strengthens case for Abe's stimulus package

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 December, 2012, 4:58am


Related topics

Japan's industrial output tumbled more than forecast to the lowest level since the aftermath of the record 2011 earthquake, bolstering the case for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to unleash large-scale stimulus.

The 1.7 per cent drop in November from October exceeded forecasts, a government report showed yesterday in Tokyo. The nation also remained mired in deflation, with consumer prices excluding fresh food dropping 0.1 per cent from a year before, compared with a central bank goal of 1 per cent and Abe's desired target of 2 per cent.

With neighbour South Korea reporting a jump in production almost double the highest estimate among economists surveyed, Japan's data may strengthen the new Abe administration's determination to drive down the yen and force the Bank of Japan to add monetary stimulus.

Abe has told ministries to compile emergency spending proposals by January 7.

"Weakness in exports is the major drag on Japan's economy," said Yoshimasa Maruyama, chief economist at Itochu in Tokyo. "Given the weak state of the economy, Abe's government may need a large-scale stimulus programme to boost growth."

Maruyama sees five trillion yen (HK$448 billion) to 10 trillion yen of initial support measures and says that it is "almost a done deal", that the Bank of Japan will move to a more aggressive inflation target in January.

The Nikkei-225 Index headed for its highest close since March 2011 as the yen weakened on the likelihood of more stimulus. The stock benchmark gained 0.7 per cent yesterday to close at 10,395.18 points. The yen traded at 86.46 per dollar after touching the lowest since August 2010.

Retail sales stagnated in November, a separate report showed, while the jobless rate was 4.1 per cent. The seasonally adjusted industrial production index fell to 86.4, the lowest level since April 2011.

"Monetary policy will be loosened further, while Abe will introduce big fiscal pump-priming," said Kiichi Murashima, the chief economist at Citigroup in Tokyo.

Japan's economy contracted for the two quarters to September, meeting the textbook definition of a recession.

Gross domestic product may shrink an annualised 0.5 per cent in the final three months of this year, according to forecasts.

Exports slid for a sixth month in November on Europe's crisis and tensions with China.