Japan Inflation Rises to 1.9%

Japan's consumer prices rose at the fastest pace in a decade in June as higher food and gasoline costs squeezed household budgets, slowing economic growth.

Core prices, which exclude fruit, fish and vegetables, climbed 1.9 percent from a year earlier after increasing 1.5 percent in May, the statistics bureau said today in Tokyo.

Faster inflation probably won't prompt the Bank of Japan to raise interest rates because the policy board is more concerned that growth is slowing. Central bank member Atsushi Mizuno said yesterday that the benchmark rate should stay at 0.5 percent for now because rising commodity costs are threatening the expansion.

The gain in core prices matched the median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.

The yen traded at 107.23 per dollar as of 10:24 a.m. in Tokyo from 107.33 before the report. The yield on Japan's 10- year bond fell 8 basis points to 1.57 percent after slumping U.S. home sales and German business confidence intensified concern that global growth will falter.

Inflation is soaring across the Asia-Pacific region, reports showed this week, complicating policy for central banks as economic growth cools. Malaysia's consumer prices rose at the fastest pace in 26 years in June. In Australia, the inflation rate surged to a two-year high in the second quarter.

The Bank of Japan is unlikely to raise rates even if inflation exceeds 2 percent, the higher end of the policy board's range for price stability, said Masaaki Kanno, chief economist at JPMorgan Securities Japan Co. in Tokyo.

Consumer sentiment fell in June to the lowest level in at least 26 years because prices of daily necessities are rising faster than wages. Goods purchased at least 15 times a year climbed 4.2 in June, almost twice the pace of the previous month. Wages rose 0.8 percent in May.

Household spending dropped 2.8 percent in June, a fourth monthly decline, economists estimate a government report to show next week. Weaker consumption and exports probably caused the economy to shrink last quarter, according to economists.

Core prices in Tokyo, a harbinger of nationwide inflation, advanced 1.6 percent in July from a year earlier, also the steepest gain in 10 years. Prices in the capital increased 1.3 percent in June.

Crude oil, corn and wheat all reached records this year. Japan imports more than 60 percent of its food requirements, the highest among developed countries. It imports almost all of oil. Gasoline prices surged to a record 181.5 yen a liter ($6.41 a gallon) earlier this month.

Prices companies pay for services such as transportation and rent climbed 1.2 percent in June from a year earlier, the central bank said today. That's the fastest pace this year.

Core consumer inflation will probably accelerate further in July as utilities and processed food makers raise retail prices.

Excluding food and energy, a measure of inflation similar to that used in the U.S., Japan's consumer prices rose 0.1 percent in June from a year earlier. That's only the second time in the past 10 years that they have increased. The U.S. equivalent climbed 2.4 percent in June.

Japan's core prices will probably climb 1.8 percent in the year ending March 2009, the central bank said last week. The bank's preferred measurement of inflation will ease to 1.1 percent next fiscal year, it said.

Companies that are raising prices to absorb higher costs are also seeing sales drop.



Japan Inflation Rises to 1.9%

TradingEconomics.com, Bloomberg
7/24/2008 7:38:30 PM