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Economy in Brief

Japan's Real GDP Strong in First Quarter,2005: Deflation Still a Problem
by Louise Curley May 17, 2005

The first quarter preliminary report for Japan's Real Gross Domestic Product released today was surprisingly good. GDP increased at annual rate of 5.3%. Last year also started out with a bang--a slightly larger increase, 5.6%-- but this was followed by declines of 0.83% and 1.04% in the second and third quarters and a minimal increase of 0.06% in the fourth quarter.

The composition of this year's first quarter increase is significantly different from that of last year's (See table below) and suggests that the outlook may be more promising. Although private inventory accumulation accounted for almost one-third of the increases in both years, there were encouraging shifts from the public to the private sector in the remaining two-thirds of the increase. Household consumption accounted for 49% of the total increase in 2005, up from 27.1% in 2004, while government consumption went from 17.2% to 10.1%. Private gross fixed investment accounted for 8.2% of the increase in the first quarter of 2005 in contrast to a negative impact of 26.6% in 2004, while public gross fixed investment dropped to 5.8% from a 33.3% contribution in 2004.

These increases in the private domestic sector's contribution to growth were all the more impressive in view of negative impact of the external sector. Net exports of goods and services were a drag on growth in 2005 of almost 6% whereas they contributed 19% to growth in 2004.

While the increase in activity in the private domestic sector is encouraging, deflation remains a stubborn problem. The non seasonally adjusted chain-linked GDP deflator in the first quarter of 2005 was 1.2% below the comparable figure of a year ago. There is, however, some evidence that prices at the wholesale level are beginning to move up and may eventually lead to price rises at the consumer level. Japan's Corporate Goods Price Index released yesterday, showed a year to year increase of 3.3% in April. The index has shown increases since May of 2004, the first sustained rise since the late nineties. The attached chart shows the year-to-year changes in this index together with the year-to-year changes in the chain linked GDP deflator.

Fourth to First Quarter Change  2005 Bil. Yen 2004 Bil. Yen 2005 % 2004 %
Household Consumption 3416.0 1958.2 49.2 27.1
Government Consumption 699.9 1250.5 10.1 17.2
Private Gross Fixed Invest. 51.2 -1.957.7 8.2 -26.6
Public Gross Fixed Invest. 404.8 2432.1 5.8 33.3
Private Inventory Change 2312.0 2207.6 33.3 30.4
Public Inventory Change -48.9 68.4 -0.7 0.9
Net Exports of Goods and Services -412.4 1389.0 -5.9 19.1
Total of Items Listed* 6942.6 7348.1 100.0 100.0
Change in GDP 6950.2 7267.6    
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