Haver Analytics
Haver Analytics
| Jul 08 2024

Economy Watchers Survey Rebounds in June But Still Reads as Weak

Japan’s economy watchers index current reading moved up to 47.0 in June from 45.7 in May. This move leaves the current index below its April value and continues a string of readings below 50, indicating ongoing contraction in the current index – that string is now at four months.

The future index for the economy watchers similarly rose to 47.9 in June from 46.3 in May and it's still below its April value of 48.5. Once again there's a month-to-month improvement and the continuation of a three-month string of readings below 50, indicating expected contraction in the future by the economy watchers survey.

The current index Still, the month is striking for its degree of improvement. The current headline improved month-to-month in six of nine components. Weakening on the month is the reading for housing that slipped to 45.3 from 46.7 in May; the assessment for corporations slipped to 47.3 in June from 47.9 in May; nonmanufacturers fell to 47.6 in June from a reading of over 50, at 50.1, in May. As a result of these changes, there are no readings in June in the current index above 50, which in the lexicon of diffusion index would reflect an assessment that activity was unchanged. All the sectors and categories assessed in the current index, even though many improved in the month, are still indicating ongoing contraction.

The future index The future index shows six of nine categories improving in June as well. And the futures index shows no sector in June with a reading at or above 50, underscoring that expectations are for continuing contractions in the future. The readings that weaken month-to-month are for housing that slipped to 44.0 in June from 45.7 in May, and for nonmanufacturers that slipped to 48.0 from 48.7 - these two slips match the declines and their current index as well. However, the future index also showed a slip in employment a reading that had been running read above 50, but it slipped to 49.9 in June from 50.3 in May.

Queue standings… We can further try to understand the meaning of the economy watchers index by looking at the queue standings of the diffusion readings for June. The queue standings are presented as percentages, and they reflect the percentile standing of the June economy watcher diffusion readings relative to observations back to January 2002.

Current queue Assessed in that way, the current index has four readings that are above 50% which puts them above their medians for that historic period. The strongest reading is for eating and drinking places, followed by services. However, the headline reading is only at 44.7 percentile and the weakest component is for employment with a 20.6 percentile standing. That tells us that the employment reading has been weaker than its June diffusion value of 46.2 only about 20% of the time, marking this as a significantly weak reading. The employment reading is important. However, for both current and future readings, the household, retail, and nonmanufacturer readings (in that order) are the most important.

Future queue The future index has a slightly weaker standing with its queue reading at a 41.9 percentile position. The future index has only one reading above its median and that's for manufacturers that have a 51.0 percentile standing for June. The weakest percentile standing among the future components is for housing with a 34-percentile standing, but not far off is employment with a 34.8 percentile standing, and services with a 39.1 percentile standing. The future assessments show that a great deal of weakness is still expected according to the economy watchers that were surveyed.

Summing up Japan’s economy has been struggling. The Bank of Japan has been dealing with a slight inflation overshoot and actually looking for an opportunity to raise rates but because Japan has been coming out of a long period of deflation the BOJ has been reluctant to attack the inflation overshoot too aggressively because it has not been clear that inflation is truly a problem. While headline inflation in Japan overshoots, the core inflation rates remain much lower and more stable. And this has continued even though the yen has been slipping steadily and dropping relatively fast. Japanese policy faces the difficult dilemma as the economy remains weak and has not yet transmitted much in the way of inflation pressure from the weakening yen nor has the economy experienced much of a kick in terms of stimulus from the greater competitiveness imparted by a weakening yen. However, a weaker yen also creates cross currents since Japan imports a lot of its energy; a weak yen raises energy prices.

  • Robert A. Brusca is Chief Economist of Fact and Opinion Economics, a consulting firm he founded in Manhattan. He has been an economist on Wall Street for over 25 years. He has visited central banking and large institutional clients in over 30 countries in his career as an economist. Mr. Brusca was a Divisional Research Chief at the Federal Reserve Bank of NY (Chief of the International Financial markets Division), a Fed Watcher at Irving Trust and Chief Economist at Nikko Securities International. He is widely quoted and appears in various media.   Mr. Brusca holds an MA and Ph.D. in economics from Michigan State University and a BA in Economics from the University of Michigan. His research pursues his strong interests in non aligned policy economics as well as international economics. FAO Economics’ research targets investors to assist them in making better investment decisions in stocks, bonds and in a variety of international assets. The company does not manage money and has no conflicts in giving economic advice.

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