Japan Inflation Rises Slightly

Japan’s inflation rose at the slowest pace in seven months in November as oil and commodity costs tumbled and the deepening recession weakened demand.

Consumer prices excluding fresh food rose 1 percent from a year earlier, less than 1.9 percent in October, the statistics bureau said today in Tokyo. The median estimate of 36 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News was for 1.1 percent.

Costs of fuel and commodities, which drove inflation to a decade high last quarter, are plunging amid a global slowdown. A deepening recession at home is also eroding demand, increasing the risk the world’s second-largest economy may slip into deflation next year, analysts say.

The yen traded at 90.45 per dollar at 8:36 a.m. in Tokyo from 90.46 before the report was published. Separate reports today showed the unemployment rate rose to 3.9 percent from 3.7 percent, job vacancies declined and households cut spending for a ninth month.

Crude oil has lost more than 70 percent its value since exceeding $147 a barrel for the first time on July 11. The yen’s 19 percent surge against the dollar since September is also making imports cheaper.

Japanese retailers are competing to slash prices to lure cash-stripped consumers, who are pulling their purse strings as wage and job prospects deteriorate.

Other reports also show inflation is fading. Wholesale price gains slowed for a third month in November and costs companies pay for services slid for a second month. Bank of Japan Governor Masaaki Shirakawa said this week inflation will moderate in coming months. 

The central bank lowered the overnight lending rate on Dec. 19 to 0.1 percent and offered to buy commercial paper and more government bonds to pump cash into the economy. The bank has pledged to explore other measures to ease the credit shortage and counter the deepening global recession.

The so-called output gap, a measure of the balance between supply and demand in the economy, fell 1.1 percent in the three months ended September, a second quarter of contraction. Economists say the gap, an indicator of deflation, will widen next year as the recession deepens.

Consumer prices excluding food and energy were unchanged in November. Core prices in Tokyo, where one in 10 Japanese lives, rose 0.8 percent in December from a year earlier, after climbing 1.1 percent in November, today’s report showed. Price trends in the capital tend to indicate future changes in nationwide inflation.



Japan Inflation Rises Slightly

TradingEconomics.com, Bloomberg
12/29/2008 8:11:17 AM