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Economy in Brief

Mixed Signals From Japan
Louise Curley  April 9, 2012

Japanese statistical releases are sending out mixed signals. The Real Synthetic Consumption Indicator, which combines demand side data with supply side data declined in February as a consequence of declines in the indexes of consumption of durable and semi durable goods that outweighed the slight improvements in the indexes of consumption of nondurables and services. The index for durable goods was 180.3 in February, compared with 185.7 in January. The comparable figures for semi durables were 94.4 and 101.6; for nondurables, 93.7 and 93.6; and for services, 102.8 and 101.8. The first chart show the paths of the Real Synthetic Indicator and its components.

In March, the results of the Economy Watchers' Survey showed an improvement in the appraisal of current conditions from 45.9 in February to 51.8 but a drop in the appraisal of future conditions from 50.1 to 49.7, as can be seen in the second chart. Some of the economy watchers concern for the future may have been prompted by the strengthening of the yen in the last month. Earlier this year the yen had weakened as a result of government intervention and the Bank of Japan's easier monetary policy.

Today, the release of balance of payments data showing a significant improvement in the current account from a record deficit of 437.3 billion yen in January to a surplus of 1,177.8 billion yen in February, as shown in the third chart. While the turn around is good to Japan's exporters, it has stimulated financial flows into the country and once again is putting upward pressure on the yen. The immediate result was a rise in the yen from 82.42 to 81.32 today, as can be see in the last chart

  Mar'12 Feb'12 Jan'12 Dec'11 Nov'11 Oct'11
Real Synthetic Consumption (2005=100) -- 105.0 105.2 104.4 104.0 104.2
Durable -- 180.3 185.7 161.2 157.0 163.0
Semi Durable -- 94.4 101.6 100.2 100.7 101.8
Nondurable -- 93.7 93.6 93.4 93.5 93.6
Services -- 102.8 101.8 103.1 102.4 102.2
Economy Watchers' Survey
Diffusion Index for Current Conditions 51.8 45.9 44.1 47.0 45.0 45.9
Diffusion Index for Future Conditions 49.7 50.1 47.1 44.4 44.7 45.9
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