Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Economy

Japan’s COVID-19 crisis reawakens deflation fears as cash hoarding returns

TOKYO — A spike in coronavirus infections in Japan is driving local households to do what they have always done in times of crisis: spend less and save more, stoking fears of a deeper retail recession and grinding deflation.

Fifty-year-old Hiromi Suzuki is doing just that having quit her job at a Tokyo novelty store in December after the pandemic hit sales.

“I try not to spend money,” she said, walking her dog in the city. “Since I don’t go out much, I don’t buy cosmetics or clothes any more.”

Ms. Suzuki’s case exemplifies the trouble Japan faces as COVID state of emergency measures were reinstated in January, hitting spending on services, which makes up one-third of total consumption.

High-frequency data shows consumption began to falter even before January’s state of emergency, catching policymakers off guard and forcing both the government and central bank to cut their assessments on private spending.

“Service spending is slumping sharply,” Bank of Japan (BOJ) Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said last week. “We don’t expect Japan to return to deflation. But we need to keep vigilant on price moves given very high uncertainty over the outlook.”

While demand for some goods is holding up, analysts warn it won’t be strong enough to offset deflationary pressures caused by weak service spending.

“The economy will be in bad shape in the first quarter, which would push prices down,” said Hiroshi Ugai, chief Japan economist at JPMorgan Securities. “Prices will essentially remain weak this year.”

Despite a rebound after initial lockdown measures were lifted in May, consumption later lost momentum, falling more than 4% in November from January’s pre-pandemic levels, according to a BOJ gauge of spending.

That was mostly due to a 10% slump in services spending, which contrasted with an 8% gain in durable goods consumption.

The pain continued in December with consumption falling 11.5% from a year ago, mainly due to a 20% drop in services spending, according to research firm Nowcast and credit card company JCB.

Spending on eat-outs fell 36% and while dining at izakaya bars slumped 47%, both marking the biggest declines since May.

SQUEEZED
A government request for restaurants to close early means retailers are now feeling the pinch.

Monteroza, which runs several popular pub chains, said it was closing 61 of its 337 locations in Tokyo.

Meanwhile, beverage giant Suntory Holdings CEO Takeshi Niinami predicts that 30% of all bars and restaurants might fail in the coming months.

The average number of customers per restaurant fell 60% in January from a year ago, data by booking site TableCheck showed, faster than a 23% slide in November and a 40% drop in December.

And Japanese households aren’t spending much on other items either. A BOJ survey showed more than 70% of households don’t plan to change the amount spent to enjoy time at home.

Instead, they are hoarding cash in banks, as they have done through every crisis including the two decades of debilitating deflation that haunted Japan until 2013.

Bank deposits surged 9.3% in December from a year earlier to a record 803 trillion yen ($7.74 trillion).

Households are expected to have saved 45.8 trillion yen, or 8.5% of gross domestic product (GDP), last year, up from 14.5 trillion in 2019, estimates by HSBC showed.

“Unless fears over the pandemic are wiped out, the money piling up in bank accounts won’t be spent,” said Toshihiro Nagahama, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute.

The BOJ has downplayed concerns about a return to deflation, arguing that companies aren’t cutting prices across the board as doing so would eat already thin margins.

Nonetheless, core consumer prices fell 1.0% in December from a year earlier, marking the biggest drop in a decade, a sign weak demand is heightening deflationary pressures.

Even fashion group Fast Retailing Co Ltd., seen as resilient due to brisk demand for its casual at-home attire, plans to lower prices of discount brand GU’s spring and summer collections.

While Fast Retailing is wary of cutting prices at its main Uniqlo brand, discounts are planned in coming months to reduce inventory, CFO Takeshi Okazaki said earlier this month.

The hope is that more households will act like Noriko Indo, an 81-year-old pensioner who keeps a tight rein on spending but occasionally indulges in luxuries like tuna sashimi, her favorite food.

“Once the pandemic is over, I’d like to splurge on travel and shop like crazy at a department store,” she said. — Reuters

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get the daily email that makes reading the news actually enjoyable. Stay informed and entertained, for free.
Your information is secure and your privacy is protected. By opting in you agree to receive emails from us. Remember that you can opt-out any time, we hate spam too!

Latest

Economy

WASHINGTON D.C. — The United States is seeking to form a coalition of countries to drive negotiations on a global plastic pollution treaty, weeks...

Economy

By Diego Gabriel C. Robles  THE WORLD BANK (WB) upgraded its growth forecast for the Philippines for this year and 2023, citing an “accommodative”...

Economy

THE PHILIPPINE auto industry’s sales recovery will likely be derailed if a measure reimposing excise taxes on pickup trucks is signed into law, according...

Economy

THE BANGKO SENTRAL ng Pilipinas (BSP) may deliver a second off-cycle rate hike in early November when the US Federal Reserve is expected to...

Economy

THE ASIAN Development Bank (ADB) is planning to allocate at least $14 billion for a program aimed at easing a food crisis in the...

Investing

With the reversal of the 1.25% rise in National Insurance Contributions happening on the 6th of November, employers across the nation have an opportunity...

You May Also Like

Investing

Having a good Instagram marketing agency to back up your Instagram account is an absolute must going into the new year. With competition stronger...

Investing

The minute that any question pops into your head, you can simply ask Google. No longer do we have to pour over books and...

Investing

Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder in the global population. Therefore, it is a problem that many people suffer or have suffered throughout...

Economy

Ivermectin, an existing drug against parasites including head lice, has had a checkered history when it comes to treating COVID-19. The bulk of studies...

Disclaimer: SmartRetirementReport.com, its managers, its employees, and assigns (collectively "The Company") do not make any guarantee or warranty about what is advertised above. Information provided by this website is for research purposes only and should not be considered as personalized financial advice. The Company is not affiliated with, nor does it receive compensation from, any specific security. The Company is not registered or licensed by any governing body in any jurisdiction to give investing advice or provide investment recommendation. Any investments recommended here should be taken into consideration only after consulting with your investment advisor and after reviewing the prospectus or financial statements of the company.

Copyright © 2021 SmartRetirementReport. All Rights Reserved.