Japan Consumption Falls In Dec As Deflation Persists

And now the Prime Minister has vowed to tighten fiscal policy.

The only open avenue (the way they see the world) is buying fx.

And note that they’ve already started buying some dollars and have been welcomed by the euro zone to buy their national govt debt.

Consumption Falls In Dec As Deflation Persists

TOKYO (Dow Jones)–Japanese consumers remained downbeat in December, as deflation persisted and the employment situation remained mixed, data released by the government Friday showed.

Taken together, the figures are the latest sign that the economy will have to rely largely on exports to fuel growth as conditions remain dreary at home.

All household spending fell 3.3% from a year earlier in December, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said. The drop was considerably worse than the median forecast for a 0.6% fall tipped by economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires and the Nikkei. It was also sharper than a 0.4% fall in November.

In another sign that consumers remained hesitant to spend, retail sales fell 2.0% in December from a year earlier, data from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry showed. The decline was mostly due to a sharp drop in auto sales, which fell by 24.1% in the month following the end of government purchasing incentives. Sales at large-scale retailers fell 1.8% from a year earlier, after adjustment for the change in the number of stores.

Highlighting the continued deflation, Japan’s core consumer price index fell 0.4% from a year earlier in December, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications data showed. While the result was slightly better than the 0.5% expected by economists, it marked the 22nd straight monthly decline, underscoring how entrenched the country’s deflation problem remains. Core prices, which exclude volatile prices of items such as fresh food, fell by 0.5% in November.

The slight easing in the price falls, moreover, stems from rising energy prices, which may only hurt individual spending down the line, economists said.

Higher energy and natural resource prices, if they are reflected in the price of consumer goods, “may lead to people cut back on consumption when circumstances surrounding households are already severe,” said Atsushi Matsumoto, an economist at Mizuho Research Institute.

Even with the upward pressure on prices, Matsumoto said it will be difficult for Japan to get out of deflation in the next fiscal year beginning in April, despite Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s government setting that timeframe as a goal.

Meanwhile, despite a fall in Japan’s jobless rate to 4.9% in December from 5.1% in the previous month, the closely watched jobs-to-applicants ratio was unchanged at 0.57. That number, which means there are only 57 jobs for every 100 job applicants, shows that firms have yet to ramp up hiring despite improvement in earnings.

“The jobless rate did show some improvement, but we need to remain very cautious as it’s still close to 5%,” a Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications official briefing reporters said.