Haver Analytics
Haver Analytics
| Jun 14 2024

Japan’s IP Backs Down after March Surge

Industrial output in Japan foundered drooping by 1.2% in April, with manufacturing output declining by 0.9% on declines spanning consumer goods, intermediate goods, and investment goods. Mining and electric and gas output fell in the month as well. Declines spread across all of manufacturing and all the major industrial production sectors. The textile industry managed a month-to-month rise.

In recent months manufacturing output and overall industrial output have both been up and down by month. Sequentially, output may have broken out from a weak trend. Over 12 months output fell by 4%, over 6-months it fell at a 7.3% annual rate, but over 3-months overall output is up and 11.5% annual rate, a strong showing. Manufacturing output fell by 4.3% over 12-months, it fell at the 6.8% annual rate over 6-months and then surged at an 11.9% annual rate over 3-months. And while these patterns are encouraging, the impact on year-over-year growth has only been to stabilize output at around the -4% mark of contraction.

By sector, consumer goods output continues to be weak but has trend with some of its weakness back. Consumer goods output falls by 4% / 12 months falls at a stepped-up pace of 8.3% at an annual rate over six months but then reduces its decline to less than 1% than an annual rate over three months. Intermediate goods output falls 4.8% / 12 months and follows at a 10.2% annual rate over six months but then manages to log an increase at a 0.4% annual rate over three months - that marks more of a reversal of trend than it does signal much of A gain. Investment could output falls by 3.9% / 12 months improve slightly by falling at only a 2.4% annual rate over six months and then jumped to a 24.2% annual rate gain over three months, that's a clear sequence of improvement but with most of the improvement coming over three months.

Outside of manufacturing, mining output showed a similar pattern. Mining output fell by 4.4% over 12-months, fell by 6.8% at an annual rate over 6-months, and then logged a 9.1% rate increase over 3-months.

Electric and gas output logs increased over all horizons and showed steady improvement over the sequential periods, rising by 0.8% over 12-months, rising at a 1% annual rate over 6-months, and then at a much-stronger 8.6% annual rate over 3-months.

There's significant agreement across the manufacturing categories and other industrial categories that show that over 3-months something positive is stirring in Japan's economy; but, as yet it's not enough to dominate the existing declining 12-month trend.

In the quarter industrial output is increasing at a9.9% at an annual rate, manufacturing output increases an 11.2% annual rate. However, the manufacturing result is driven by investment goods that are rising at a 30% annual rate in the quarter while consumer goods output falls by 3.6% at an annual rate and intermediate goods output falls at a 0.8% annual rate.

Mining and electric and gas output both fall in the quarter to date, as well. But now the quarter is in a nascent phase with only one month of data in. Results for the quarter can still change quite markedly as there are still two-months-worth of data plus the potential for revision to reveal themselves. The quarter to date growth calculation involves taking the current month and calculating its trajectory over the first quarter average by compounding it; that tends to exaggerate its impact so early in the quarter. That will change significantly when the next several months of data are added in to complete the quarter.

Output overall as well as manufacturing and all its sectors show output levels are still below what they were in January of 2020 when COVID first struck the world economy. The short-falls are significant, indicating that after four years Japan's economy still has not recovered from that body blow. The only industry that has improved relative to January 2020 is electric and gas and that's only because there's always a steady need for the output from utilities. This report highlights the potential for recovery in Japan's economy. Most of the gain stems from a revival in March, April's contribution is that it wasn't weak enough to wipe out the March gain. Still, the year-over-year change in output remains negative. Quarter to date output is stepping into positive territory but on the on the strength of one sector. Japan's economy still has a long way to go to put itself back on two feet.

  • 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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