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Economy in Brief

Some Upbeat Economic News From Japan
By Louise Curley  January 17, 2012

The Japanese economy continues its pattern of ups and down as it recovers from the disastrous earthquake and tsunami of March 2011 and later in the year, floods in Thailand, that disrupted production in the Japanese factories outsourced in Thailand. GDP increased at an annual rate of 5.6% in the third quarter of 2011, up from -2.0% in the second quarter and a decline of 6.6% in the first quarter. With increasing uncertainties in the world financial situation, the current news from Japan is surprisingly up beat.

.Consumer confidence in Japan is measured by a diffusion index, where the 50 mark is the dividing line between expansion and deterioration of the series. Not only was the consumer confidence index below 50 for the first half of the year, it was also declining. Although still below 50, the index of Consumer confidence rose in the last half of the year ending at 38.1, 3 points below the January high. Among the components of the index, willingness to buy durable goods followed the same general path as the overall index, but it ended the year at 40.6, only 1.4 points below the January high. The Consumer Confidence Index and its components are shown in the first chart.

Total Machinery Orders increased 14.6% from October to November. The Headline Series, Total Orders excluding volatile item, such as ships and electric power increased 14.8% and the volatile items increase 14.6%. In October the month to month changes were, respectively 3.3%, -6.9% and 9.7%. The recovery of orders excluding volatile items from its October decline is a good omen for Gross Fixed Capital Formation in the National Accounts. As can be see in the second chart there is a high correlation between the two series.

Finally Corporate Goods Prices indexes (2005=100) were also released today. The December index for all commodities was 104.7, up from 104.6 in November, Although small, the rise was the first since July, as shown in the third chart.

High Low Q4
Consumer Confd (Diff Index) 38.1 37.7 38.5 41.1
38.1 37.9 35.0 40.0
Willingness to Buy Durable Gds 40.6 39.6 40.4 42.0 Jan 34.0 Apr 40.2 39.7 36.4 40.9
Machinery Orders Total -- 2260.7 1971.4 14.6 3.3 -- 5755.7 6125.3 6778.9
Machinery Orders ex volatile items -- 788.9 687.4 14.8 -6.9 -- 2268.7 2235.1 2181.3
Machinery Orders all other -- 1471.8 1284.1 14.6 9.7 -- -- -- --
Corporate Domestic Gds Prices (2005=100) 104.7 104.6 104.6 -- -- 104.6 105.5 105.6 104.3
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