Haver Analytics
Haver Analytics
| Jun 17 2024

Japan’s Orders Mostly Pull Back in April

The new data today from Japan are for orders and these are presented at the bottom of this table. Total orders fell by 3.6% in April with core orders (those being the series excludes large projects such as ships and electric power plants) falling by 2.9% month-to-month. Foreign demand was the only category that rose on the month, it was up by 21.6% but that's following the only decline from March when foreign orders fell by 9.4%. Domestic demand fell by 15.1% in April.

The ranking of the levels of the indices for orders are relatively high with core orders being the weakest at 85.8 percentile standing the rest having standings above the 90th percentile. However, over time and with inflation orders should grow so it might be more meaningful to look at the growth rank and on that basis core orders have a 44.8 percentile standing the growth rate rank, below its median - the median for ranking statistics occurs at the 50th percentile. However, in terms of growth rankings total orders, foreign demand, and domestic demand, all have standings from the mid-70th to low-80th percentiles which are quite solid metrics.

Beyond Orders Other metrics in the table also assess the performance of Japan's economy in various ways. The first block in the table considers the economy watchers’ index. These diffusion indices are largely below scores of 50, indicating contraction for these survey items. In terms of rankings, the growth ranking for the economy watcher components are all quite weak - all below their 28th percentile in terms of levels- and these are more meaningful since these are diffusion indices. Eating and drinking and service sector indices have standings above their 50th percentile, but the rest are below the 50th percentile indicating performance for these sectors below their respective historic medians.

The Teikoku surveys also employ diffusion indices. They are slightly weaker in their diffusion values than the economy watchers’ numbers. The rankings of the Teikoku diffusion indices in terms of index levels are all over the map, with manufacturing extremely weak, at a 35-percentile standing, and services at the other extreme, strong with an 80.7 percentile standing. In terms of the growth rankings all of them are weak with construction as high as a 38-percentile standing but after that nothing as high as a 32nd percentile standing.

The METI tertiary index moved up in April to 101.9 from 100 in March. It has an index standing at its 85th percentile and growth standing at its 66th percentile, both above their medians. For industry we use the industrial production index which dips in April compared to March. It has an index rank that's low at 6.8% and a growth rank that's only at 12.8%. The weakness in industrial production reinforces the weak reading we see on manufacturing in the Teikoku survey.

Japan's leading economic index in April ticks down slightly to 111.6 from a 111.7; that index has a ranking on its level at its 59th percentile and a growth ranking at its 74th percentile both mildly firm entries.

Against the background of the surveys in the table, the orders responses in April show standing growth rates and order index levels that seem relatively stronger than some of the responses from the surveys in the table above. However, there's little indication according to any metric in the table there's much strength in Japan's economy, in the manufacturing sector, or across the service sector entries. The far-right hand column simply looks at changes in the various indices from January of 2020 when COVID struck. Recognizing that these are changes over a four-year period, they indicate a good deal of weakness across the Japanese economy. Against that background the orders data have better responses than the surveys.

Still, the bottom line for Japan is that the economy is struggling, and the Bank of Japan is still trying to feel its way with policy being somewhat hesitant to raise rates too much despite excess of inflation because it's unsure whether the inflation is going to stay; the BOJ is still being very mindful of the long period of deflation it hopes it has put behind it. The sharp weakness in the yen that has developed this year is simply another policy challenge for the Bank of Japan and so far, this yen weakness has not particularly ignited either domestic growth or domestic inflation. But it has contributed to the increase in the price of energy and that has created some consumer distress.

  • 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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