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Economy in Brief

Japan Retail Sales: A Jump Then a Slowing
by Robert Brusca March 13, 2008

Japan’s seasonally adjusted headline sales spurted over six months then slowed over three months. The three-month slowdown however is at a slightly slower pace than year-to-year sales. On the quarter-to-date sales are better than their year/yearr pace and better than their three-month pace.

For not seasonally adjusted data, Japan’s January retail sales also jumped over six months compared to 12 months ago, but over the recent three months sales were much weaker and generally back to their year/year pace (a little better). In the current quarter too, Japan retail sales are advancing at a pace close to the pace they posted over the past year. These trends apply to most retail sales components.

Motor vehicles are one category that is an exception to some of these generalities. MV sales did spurt over six months and slowed from that pace over 3 months but the three-month pace has remained above the year/year pace and as a result the quarter to date pace is also elevated. But since MV sales are volatile it is never possible to know if it is spurting and will have legs or will dissipate or even reverse. Japan’s economy has been engaged in a long slowdown. But recently several of its cyclical measures have shown some upside. Auto sales may be another one of those new bright signs.

Japan Retail Sales Trends
  Jan-08 Dec-07 Nov-07 3-mo 6-mo 12-mo Yr-Ago Q-to-Date
Total 0.6% -0.8% 0.7% 1.8% 7.2% 1.2% -4.7% 1.6%
Motor Vehicles 2.9% -0.8% 0.1% 8.5% 17.7% 5.6% -14.2% 14.7%
Food & Beverage 0.2% -0.2% -0.1% -0.5% 2.6% 0.4% 2.4% 0.1%
Fabric apparel & accessories 1.2% -2.6% 1.5% 0.0% 6.2% 0.0% -24.6% -0.7%
Rest of Retail 0.2% -0.9% 1.2% 1.9% 7.8% 0.9% -3.0% 0.1%
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