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Updated: 2014-10-04T23:17:51.487-07:00

 



China Inflation January 2008

2008-02-19T06:30:11.767-08:00

China recorded an inflation rate above 7 per cent in January – the highest in more than 11 years and providing evidence of entrenched inflationary pressures.Consumer prices rose 7.1 percent in January from a year earlier, the statistics bureau said today, after gaining 6.5 percent in December. January's consumer prices climbed 1.2 percent from December.Widespread expectations of a significant jump in retail inflation had been reinforced yesterday when manufacturing producer prices hit a three-year monthly year-on-year high of 6.1 per cent, mainly as a result of winter transport bottlenecks and higher commodity prices. There are signs that global inflationary pressures have been fuelling higher ­Chinese food prices. Global prices for top-quality spring wheat - for example - have jumped by 90 per cent in the past six weeks, as corporate consumers have scrambled to secure supplies and speculators have bought stocks. The rising cost of pig feed is another example, and pork prices climbed 59 percent, edible oil 37 percent and vegetables 14 percent. Even more preoccupying is the fact that this process might now endure well into the year – creating a further headache for Chinese policymakers.The breakdown of the CPI is also interesting, food, with a weighting of about 25%, is obviously important, and the price of foodstuffs increased 18.2 percent. Of this total, the price of grain was up by 5.7 percent.On the other hand clothing was down by 1.9 percent year-on-year. The price of household facilities, articles, and maintenance services rose by 2.1 percent year-on-year. Of which, the price of durables rose by 0.7 percent, but household services and upkeep surged by 10.7 percent.The price of health care and personal articles increased 3.2 percent year-on-year. The price of western medicines increased by only 0.5 percent, while that of traditional Chinese medicinal materials and medicines was up by 11.4 percent.The price of transportation and communication dropped 1.1 percent, with transport alone dropping 2.9 percent. Communication prices fell by 19.6 percent. The price of recreational, educational and cultural articles decreased 0.3 percent. Of which, price of tuition and child care increased 0.5 percent; that of teaching materials and reference books dropped 1.3 percent; that of expenditure of culture and recreation increased 2.1 percent; that of tourism and outgoing was up by 5.1 percent; and that of cultural and recreational articles dropped 0.7 percent.The price of articles related to residence expanded 6.1 percent over the same period of the previous year. Of which, price of water (5.5%), electricity (5.7%) and fuels (4.7%) all up strongly.Inflation has soared since last year on food and fuel costs, but it is important to note that wages were rising by a very rapid 22% on a national basis in Q3 2007, and a surging money supply increasingly poses the risk that these price gains may become self-propelling.The threat of enduring inflation will add significantly to the pressures on Beijing to allow an even faster appreciation of its tightly managed currency. Food prices soared 18 percent after blizzards paralyzed transport systems and destroyed crops. The government faces the challenge of curbing inflation without derailing the expansion of the world's fastest-growing major economyThe renminbi, which has risen by about 13 per cent against the US dollar since mid-2005, has been rising more rapidly recently, in-creasing at an annualised rate of about 19 per cent in January.As a result, China’s central bank is, technically, ­losing billions of dollars a month on the foreign exchange reserves it invests in US dollar instruments because it is paying higher rates at home on renminbi bank bills than it is getting in the US. The key one-year lending rate is 7.47 percent. With interest rates on the back burner, a higher renminbi has become an important weapon for the government to fight inflation, by lowering import costs of oil and other commodities as well as soyabeans. Eighty per cent of soyabean imports are used for pig f[...]



India Price Inflation February 2 2008

2008-02-18T01:39:47.636-08:00

India's wholesale inflation slowed at the start of February as prices of vegetables and pulses fell. Wholesale prices climbed 4.07 percent in the week ended Feb. 2 from a year earlier, slower than the previous week's 4.11 percent, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry said today in New Delhi.

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Slowing inflation may be temporary because Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday approved raising retail fuel prices for the first time in 20 months. India's central bank kept interest rates at a five-year high on Jan. 29, citing concern that fuel and food costs may fan inflation in Asia's third-largest economy.

Higher borrowing costs are putting a brake on demand for homes, motorbikes and other consumer durables, and this is significant since consumer spending has been a key driver of India's economic growth in recent times. Bajaj Auto - India's second- biggest motorcycle maker - reported recently that sales fell in January as local demand declined. Sales of motorcycles, three-wheeled auto rickshaws and scooters fell 16 percent to 192,193 in January from 229,583 a year earlier. That aggregate number included exports of 43,533 units, a gain of 9.3 percent.

But there seems to be something of a tussle going on between the Finance Ministry and the Central Bank over what to do about the situation. India's government announced on Feb 7 that India's economy may well only expand by 8.7 percent in the fiscal year ending March 31, which would be the slowest pace in three years, and the slowdown is in part the result of higher interest rates, and in part a consequence of the higher rupee, which makes India's exports more expensive.


On February 12 Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram asked state-run banks to provide more loans for the purchase of homes and consumer goods after asking banks to cut interest rates last month. But it is not clear that they are of the same mind over at the Reserve Bank of India. Inflation is constantly being stressed, and needs to be brought down further, according to central bank Deputy Governor Rakesh Mohan yesterday in New Delhi, speaking just before the announcement of a fuel-price increase. ``The inflation rate is still high by global standards," he is quoted as saying. The Singh cabinet approved raising the retail gasoline price by 2 rupees (5 U.S. cents) a liter and the cost of diesel by 1 rupee a liter,yesterday.

Previously, the government had capped fuel prices and lowered import duties over the past year to curb inflation. It hadn't allowed any rise in fuel prices since June 2006, even as the cost of crude oil surged 57 percent last year and climbed to $100 a barrel in January.



Toshihiko Fukui's Term At The BoJ

2008-02-18T01:34:11.796-08:00

Toshihiko Fukui will retire as governor, after five years at the helm of the Bank of Japan, on the 19th March. His successor may well be announced this week. This morning in the Financial Times David Pilling has a long, and very "fair and balanced" asseessment of Fukui's time at the BoJ, which is more than worthwhile reading for those of you who would like to understand the workings of this venerable institution just a little better. As Pilling's concluding paragraphs make clear, what would seem to matter most in this case isn't so much what just happened, as what gets to happen next:“Fukui has often been portrayed as chomping at the bit to raise rates,” says Ben Eldred of Daiwa Securities “The truth is that Fukui’s BoJ has been fairly pragmatic – waiting until relatively late in the economic cycle before raising rates, doing so only very gradually and pausing as soon as it became clear that the global economic outlook had worsened in 2007.”The pause to which Mr Eldred refers has lasted a year. As well as a response to international circumstances, the delay also reflects the failure of the domestic economy to click into gear as Mr Fukui has long predicted. The governor has continually stressed his belief that record corporate profits will feed through into higher wages and consumer demand – a “virtuous circle” that might have been a good justification for the bank’s forward-looking policy.Unfortunately, it has not panned out. Wages have stalled or even fallen as global competition, coupled with labour market and demographic changes, has short-circuited the normal mechanism by which profits flow into remuneration.This has left Japan’s economy running on only one, export-led engine and flying too close to the deflationary ground for comfort. What headline inflation there has been is due almost entirely to higher oil and commodity prices. If commodity-led inflation fades – as many predict if the global economy slows – Japan could yet crash-land back into deflation.Markets are factoring in the possibility that the BoJ’s next rate move will be down – not up as the governor has long intimated. It would be a severe blow indeed for the bank to put hard-won interest rate rises into reverse. But if the day for such a decision arrives, at least it will not be Mr Fukui’s to make.Basically I think Fukui's big bet was that domestic consumption would prove strong enough to provide a second leg (in tandem with exports) for the Japanese economy. As Claus details at great length here (and here) - and as Pilling also seems to accept -this view seems to be inadequate, and fails to get to grips with the malaise which is affecting the Japanese economy. And as if to give just one last kick to this now thoroughly wobbly perspective, todays index for December services has just been published by the Japanese Trade Ministry. The tertiary index, which is a measure of the money households and businesses spend on things like phone calls, power and transportation, declined 0.6 percent from November. The Ministry listed the following sectors as having declined:1. Finance and Insurance, 2. Services, 3. Compound Services, 4. Wholesale and Retail Trade. Industries that contributed to the increase are as follows:1. Eating and Drinking Places, Accommodations, 2. Real Estate, 3. Learning Support, 4. Electricity, Gas, Heat Supply and Water, 5. Medical, Health Care and Welfare.Although the index actually rose some 0.2 percent over the fourth quarter, this latest sign of weakening will certainly not come as good news for Fukui as he prepares to clear up his desk.[...]



Q&A on Japan

2008-02-18T01:33:21.936-08:00

by Claus VistesenIn the context of Francois Guillaume's pertinent comments and questions to my review and preview note and in the light of today's much surprising Q4 GDP release I have chosen to present my comments and answers to Francois' questions/comments above the fold à la Q&A.---1) GDP much higher than expected...how do you explain that ??I want to focus on two issues here. First of all, the current figures are preliminary and in this light I expect to see a downward revision in March. In this light, we need to realize I think that given the incoming stream of data we have seen from the three months of Q4 2007 this figure of 3.7% (Q4 YoY) is pretty hard to justify. For a reasonable take on the whole situation Graham Davis from the Economist Intelligence Unit had a good overview I think in his interview with Bloomberg (can’t hyperlink to the clip I am afraid). Also, we should note I think a comment made recently by Takehiro Sato over at Morgan Stanley’s GEF … Incidentally, in Japan’s case, quarterly GDP data are too volatile to be a suitable criterion for calling the economic cycle. This is clear from the GDP trend in past recessions. Yet while GDP has at times been positive when the economy is in retreat, industrial production has consistently mirrored the downward path of the economy. It seems reasonable to say that the critical factor for assessing the economic cycle is simply the direction of industrial production.However, if we accept the figure as it is I still don’t think that the underlying path of the Japanese economy has changed even if the level seems somewhat too high. Let me consequently highlight some of the snippets from Bloomberg’s report on the break-up of the GDP components as well as the much more detailed break-up provided by Edward vis-à-vis the official estimate provided by the Cabinet office. What thus seems clear to me is that although consumption rose in the last half of 2007 net exports and by derivative capex continues to drive forward Japan on the margin. Remember that we need to talk about levels here too since private consumption commands a much larger share in the Japanese economy than does both investment and net exports. Let us try to annualize the quarterly growth rates in both real and nominal terms which yields a quite different picture. In real terms Japan thus grew 1.8% through 2007 and in nominal terms we are down to a rather un-impressing 0.6%. Particularly for Q4 the figures are 0.9% and 0.3% for real and nominal growth rates respectively. In this way, the GDP deflator is a welcome alternative to the CPI index in that it accounts for the change in prices relative to what consumers actually buy in the measurement period. Thus note in passing the following from Bloomberg … Rising oil prices may have boosted growth in real terms. The GDP deflator, a broad measure of prices used to calculate real growth from nominal, fell 1.3 percent from a year earlier, the biggest drop since the first quarter of 2006. The deflator is adjusted downwards when oil prices rise. In nominal terms the economy grew an annual 1.2 percent in the fourth quarter.I am going to discuss this more below since inflation measurement is clearly one of those areas where data mining and basket building can be used to construct just about any kind of number you would like. In this way, all these kinds of inflation adjusted growth rates etc need to be taken with a pinch of salt. In conclusion on the GDP figures I think the following is important to note. First of all, this is good news since it indicates, all things equal, that Japan has defied at least some of the claims that a recession/slowdown is imminent. However, I am not sure how much valuable information we can reasonably derive from the figures at this point. First of all, I think these figures are in for a haircut once they are subject to revision. Yet, even if we rely on them such as they are I think that it is reasonably clear how for example the value co[...]



Japan Q4 2007 GDP

2008-02-18T01:31:44.359-08:00

Well the preliminary Q4 GDP numbers are now out and they are definitely better than expected. Japan's economy grew at an annualised rate of 3.7 percent in the last quarter of 2007, and this was at least double the pace most economists were expecting, as strong business investment and exports to Asia and Europe helped the Japanese economy weather the U.S. slowdown. Gross domestic product in the three months which ended Dec. 31 accelerated from a 1.3 percent annualised rate expansion in the third quarter, according to data released by the Japanese Cabinet Office in Tokyo today. We need to be a little carfeul in using these annualised rates, since they are derived by simply multiplying quarterly rates by 4, but still whole year growth for 2007, according to the first preliminary estimate, was 2.1%, which compares with 2.4% in 2006 and 1.9% in 2005, so the final result is not at all - by current Japanese standards - a bad one.On a quarter-on-quarter basis, growth in Q4 was at 0.9%, up from 0.3% in Q3, and the -0.4% contraction in the second quarter.So it is clear that, despite all the negative sentiment we have been faithfully recording here, the Japanese economy actually accelerated in the second half of 2007 and this despite the dramatic slowdown in residential housing. The big question - as Francois reasonably asks in comments to Claus's last post - why?I freely admit these results have surprised me, as I was expecting something significantly worse. But I suppose we should to some extent have seen this coming. Growth in Q2 was very bad, and the rebound in Q3 was relatively weak, yet all those export numbers we have also been recording over the months - and the surprise upside in consumption in December - should have been some sort of indication. Plus government spending in the last quarter seems to have been pretty strong. Lets take a look at some of the details.I have made the following charts on a simple cut-and-paste basis from the PDF summary file provided by the cabinet office, but I think they may help people to see what is happening at a glance, since they show either the percentage contributions of the more important components to growth or the quarterly percentage growth rates (depending), and hence may make what are otherwise pretty dry numbers a bit more real. Firstly the evolution in real quarterly GDP growth (all the charts are based on real, not nominal, data).If we now come to look at the comparative role of exports and domestic demand, we can see that while the role of exports continues to be strong (and is much better in both Q3 and Q4 when compared with Q2) the share was actually down slightly on Q3, so exports aren't the whole story here by any means, since domestic demand moved from being a negative 0.4% drag in Q3 to a positive 0.5% boost in Q4.Household consumption was up slightly, contributing 0.2 percentage points to growth:The decline in residential construction continued and even accelerated across Q4 (residential construction declined by 9.1% over the previous quarter when it declined by 8.3% from Q2, although the rate of decline may well have been slowing off in November and December).Private non-residential investment (or fixed capital formation) grew strongly in Q4. Could we interpret this as a response to the stronger than expected performance in exports in the face of the US slowdown?But perhaps the biggest surprise of all comes from government consumption, which grew 0.8% over the previous quarter, contributing 0.1 percentage points to quarterly growth.So to go back to Francois original question, about how to account for the Q4 performance, could we say some small improvement in household consumption, sustained export growth, an increase in government consumption (perhaps undertaken to offset the impact of the housing contraction), and a large rise in investment, as I say possibly the outcome of the strong performance in exports and the reasonable domestic consumption outcome leadi[...]



Review and Preview on Japan

2008-02-18T01:30:36.048-08:00

by Claus VistesenI realize that I am moving in a bit late with this but the data I use to input in my analysis only recently came out for December 2007. More generally, this post is going to be quite big since I have a lot of things I want to get off my chest this time around. I have two main areas of focus I want to cover.Firstly I want to finalise my analysis of Japan in 2007 with the December data for consumption expenditures and prices.Secondly, I want to continue with a general assessment of two of the main market points in Japan at the moment. The Yen and the BOJ rate policy faced with an incoming slowdown and potential recession.As for the general situation in Japan I am sure it has not escaped your attention that Japan now seems set to enter a recession. The only question will be the extent and more importantly the length of the slump. In Morgan Stanley's GEF (edition 8th of February) Takehiro Sato points towards industrial production trends as well as US GDP readings and tantamount to the forecast that Japan is heading more meager times ...The risk of dual recession is mounting. Our US economics team is already calling for capex-induced negative GDP growth in successive quarters (Jan-Mar, Apr-Jun), for a technical minor recession in the first half of the year by definition. We are forecasting that Japan will cling on to a modicum of growth in the Oct-Dec 2007 quarter, boosted by external demand, but there is a possibility that, like the US, that quarter will mark the peak and the economy will retreat in Jan-Mar. Future data for industrial production will tell us if this is the case.This note will not focus on figures for industrial production or US GDP stats but rather I will initially move in with my traditional focus on the internal demand dynamics in Japan. As ever, the Japan Economy Watch contains the latest cyclical indicators fresh in off the wire in order to bring you up to speed. Here at Alpha.Sources I made a note recently which also sums up the most recent trends and pieces of data. For now, let us turn to the updated charts which usually form the main edifice of my analysis of Japan ...If we begin with prices we see that inflation, at a first glance, seems to have returned to the shores of Japan even to such an extent that I will soon need to adjust the y-axis of my graph (and yes, this is an apology for a sloppy excel graph). Yet, the most important point to take away from this is, as I have been at pains to hammer home before, the disconnect between the inflation indices. Core inflation as measured by inflation ex food and energy prices is still in negative territory whereas the general index is shooting up thanks to headline inflation. This disconnect suggests that the inflation we are seeing in Japan is not driven by demand factors (demand pull) but rather by supply factors (cost push) and thus this does not signal an impending Japanese recovery. Quite the contrary in fact as the spurt of inflation at this particular point in time will only further pinch an already troubled Japanese consumer. Edward also moves in with a much worth while analysis of the inflation issues in Japan. A key point here will be the extent to which future inflation readings will have a bearing on the BOJ's decision to actually move in with a cut in the already low interest rate of 0.5% in order to accommodate a slumping economy. I don't think Fukui will cut rates before his term ends this spring and given the debacle which may arise in the context of finding a new governor it seems that economic fundamentals should not be the only thing to watch in order to make a call. What seems obvious however is that if inflation pressures suddenly show signs on abating the door will be open for a cut.If we turn to the indicators for domestic demand proxied by various measures of consumption expenditures we can also close the book on my forecasts for 2007. As such, I dared to venture that growth in co[...]



India Industrial Output December 2007

2008-02-18T01:39:11.583-08:00

India's industrial production again in December as record investment in factories, roads and power plants increased demand for cement and steel. Production in factories, utilities and mines rose 7.6 percent over December 2006, after gaining a revised 5.1 percent in November, according to the statistics office in New Delhi today. So it seems that despite the pressure on India's export potential which comes from having a rising rupee, the pace of capital inflows and hence investment means that industrial expansion has a strongish underlying momentum.


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Industrial production grew 9 percent in the nine months ended Dec. 31, less than the 11.2 percent gain in the same period in the previous year, the government said. Manufacturing in December rose 8.4 percent, led by a 16.6 percent increase in the output of capital goods such as plant and machinery.

Higher borrowing costs are prompting consumers to postpone purchases. Bajaj Auto Ltd., India's second-largest motorcycle maker, posted a 16 percent drop in sales in January, its 12th straight month of declines.

ABN Amro Bank NV's purchasing managers' index indicated manufacturing growth recovered in December from the previous month and fell again in January to the lowest level since September.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government is spending 1.34 trillion rupees ($34 billion) in the year ending March 31, a 40 percent increase over the previous year, on roads, ports and power plants.

Economic expansion in India is still the second-fastest after China among the world's biggest economies. The economy has grown an average 8.8 percent since 2003, the fastest expansion since the country's independence in 1947.

India's middle class, defined as those with annual disposable incomes between $4,380 and $21,890, has more than doubled to 50 million in the past decade, according to McKinsey & Co., the New York-based consulting firm.

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Has China's Economic Growth Now Passed It's Peak?

2008-02-18T01:35:49.385-08:00

Is the annual rate of Chinese growth now about to slow, not just temporarily, but may it actually be that the long march of Chinese "catch-up" growth is now finally slowing? This is the question that was asked by the Financial Times earlier this week, and, as they point out, it may well be that behind those headline forecasts for decelerating Chinese output in 2008 there lies a deeper and more significant trend that may mark the arrival of the long-awaited turning point in the trajectory of the Chinese economy.Certainly both local Chinese and World Bank economists have significantly downgraded their forecasts for China’s 2008 growth in recent weeks – down from 11.4 per cent rate achieved in 2007 to around 9 to 9.5% this year. But more importantly, could the 11.4 per cent expansion in 2007 – the fifth consecutive year of double-digit increase – represent the peak point in headline growth for China's economic development process. That is, after falling back this year, will Chinese growth ever climb back to its previous heights, and even if it doesn't , should this fact be producing concern among us?On the face of it, it is obvious that noone - not even China - can continue growing at double digit rates forever, and at some stage the cycle of growth will fall steadily back towards the much lower rates traditionally associated with a developed economy. The big question is really, has that point now been reached?To get an idea of what we are talking about, and of what all this might this mean, perhaps it is interesting to take a quick look at the longer term growth patterns of some other economies who have been through the "accelerated greenhouse" catch-up growth that China is currently enjoying. Perhaps a good place to start would be with South Korea, since South Korea is arguably the South East Asian "tiger" which is most similar to what Chinese economic evolution might look like, since Singapore, Taiwan and Hink Kong are, each in their own way, very special cases.Now as we can see from the above chart, South Korean was at one point very strong indeed, until growth "peaked" around 1987 (at 11.1%) and since that time growth has followed a more normal cyclical pattern, with the important detail that with each successive cycle Korean growth has slowly and inexorably slowed ("stripping out" the very exceptional sharp decline and rebound produced by the Asian crisis in 1998).Economic growth for an emerging economy tends to show this kind of profile since in general terms there are both technological and demographic components in "catch up" economic growth - although there may actually be no such thing in reality as a constant steady state rate to catch up with as I try to argue here - and once most of the technological gap has been closed and the benefical momentum of arriving at maximum proportions of the population in the highly productive 25 to 50 age group begins to pass, economies then seem to eshibit a steady loss of momentum rather like air escaping from a pinprick in a gas balloon, as we can see in the cases of the two oldest societies on the planet, Japan and Italy, in the charts below.Now I have singled out Italy and Japan (the profile for France, or the UK, or the US is really quite different) since they are both late economic developers, and also since their subsequent demographic transition to ultra low fertility has been very rapid, as it is about to be South Korea and China. Hence Japan and Italy have experienced very rapid ageing, and we already know China is about to follow them down this road, at what may well be an even more rapid pace. In fact China may well, thanks to the presence of a forced restriction of fertility, a reasonably high level of life expectancy and a virtually negligible impact from inward migration as we move forward, become the most rapidly ageing society the world has so far seen.The comparati[...]



Indian Wholesale Inflation 26 January 2008

2008-02-18T01:37:48.167-08:00

India's inflation accelerated at the end of January to the highest rate in more than five months as prices of fruits, spices and salt increased. Wholesale prices rose 4.11 percent in the week ended Jan. 26 from a year earlier, faster than the previous week's 3.93 percent, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry said today in New Delhi.

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Inflation accelerated in the week as prices of manufactured goods, accounting for 64 percent of the wholesale price index, rose 0.3 percent from the previous week.

The Reserve Bank of India kept the benchmark interest rate unchanged last week on concern rising fuel and food prices may fan inflation. The central bank has also allowed the rupee to appreciate to reduce the cost of imports and curb price gains.

That's helped the government damp inflation, which reached a more than two-year high of 6.69 percent almost exactly a year ago.

Inflation is a sensitive issue in the $906 billion economy and rising prices may cause the Congress party to lose votes in forthcoming elections. The term of Singh's government ends June 1, next year. The ruling Congress party lost elections in four states in 2007, reducing its influence in parliament. The party was ousted in Punjab and Uttarakhand states and fell further behind in the nation's most populous provinces of Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat.


In the meantime the capital inflows continue, and India's foreign exchange reserves rose in the week ending February 1, to $292.6 billion dollars, from $288.3 billion a week earlier.


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Japan Leading Indicator November 2007

2008-01-10T00:09:42.782-08:00

Japan's broadest indicator of future economic activity was down again this month, the fourth cosnecutive weak showing, suggesting that the what has been the longest expansion in more than 60 years may well now be coming to an end. The leading index was at 10.0 percent in November, the Cabinet Office said today in Tokyo. A reading of below 50 signals slower growth in the next three to six months.

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Weak domestic demand and consumer consumption as Japan's population and workforce steadily age leave the economy increasingly dependant on export growth and overseas demand. To date the slowdown in US demand has been comensated by growth in Europe and China, but now there are clear signs the Chinese authorities really will have to throw the brake on growth this year as iflation gets steadily out of control, while the slowdown in Europe is now gathering speed more rapidly than the one in the United States. Goldman Sachs Group today cut its estimate for Japanese growth in 2008 arguing that slower export demand has put the risk of a recession in Japan at a "danger level". Goldman cut their growth forecast to 1 percent from 1.2 percent and said the Bank of Japan will have to forego any interest rate increases until next year. I would go further. I would say that a recession in Japan is now a foregone conclusion. The only real question is how deep and for how long. 1% growth may well be on the optimistic side, and I would start out at 0.5% and subject to downward revision. On the BoJ, as Claus says, it isn't so much that they won't raise as when are they likely to cut, and when will we be back (yes, that dreaded word) to ZIRP.

Japan has had three recessions since the country's stock and property bubble burst in the early 1990s. The first lasted 32 months from March 1991 to October 1993, while the second dragged on for 20 months from June 1997 to January 1999. The most recent recession was in the 14 months from December 2000, following the bursting of an information-technology boom. So all the indiactions are that this recession will not be a short affair. It needs to be borne in mind that each time round now Japan's population is older, and the fragility of the underlying situation proportionately greater.

As Claus was indicating in his recent post, there is probably now going to be a certain monotony in the data here, as it all moves - sometimes more slowly and sometimes more quickly - in the same direction. The centre of action is now likely to move to the political stage and to following how the Japanese population react to yet another disappointment.

``We project weaker-than-expected growth in the first half of 2008 owing to an inevitable, moderate slowdown among emerging economies,'' said Tetsufumi Yamakawa, chief Japan economist at Goldman Sachs in Tokyo.



India Inflation December 22 2007

2008-01-10T00:12:38.930-08:00

India's inflation held below the central bank target for a sixth straight month as the government continued to keep a cap on fuel prices despite the fact that global crude oil surged to a record. Wholesale prices rose 3.5 percent in the week ended Dec. 22 from a year earlier, faster than the previous week's 3.45 percent gain, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry said today in New Delhi.

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The Indian government may raise auto fuel prices by the end of January for the first time in 18 months according to Oil Minister Murli Deora yesterday. That could reignite price pressures and prompt the central bank, which targets 5 percent inflation, to keep its benchmark interest rate at a 5 1/2-year high at its Jan. 31 monetary-policy meeting.

India imports almost three-quarters of its energy needs, and has not allowed increases in fuel prices even as crude oil prices have risen 79 percent from a year ago.

The government caps gasoline and diesel rates to help keep inflation down and protect the poor, who make up half the country's 1.1 billion people. Gasoline and diesel prices were last changed on Feb. 15, when they were cut for the second time in 2 1/2 months. Cooking gas prices haven't been raised since November 2004 and kerosene since April 2002.

Inflation in the third week of December rose as the index of fuels, with 14.2 percent weight in the inflation basket, rose 0.5 percent and the index for manufactured products, including sugar, cement and edible oils, rose 0.1 percent.



Rupee Near Record

2008-01-10T00:11:38.127-08:00

The rupee climbed again today to reach its highest level in almost a decade as the benchmark stock index rose to a record, raising expectations global funds will buy more local equities. The rupee gained for the fourth successive day after Citigroup and Deutsche Bank said in research reports that the Bombay Stock Exchange's Sensitive Index, or Sensex, will add to gains for the seventh year in a row as a near-record pace of economic growth boosts company earnings. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said ``conditions are favorable'' for the nation to sustain a growth rate of between 9 percent and 10 percent in the next five years.

The currency gained to 39.275 against the dollar at the 5 p.m. close in Mumbai, the highest since Feb. 26, 1998, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It closed at 39.295 yesterday. The rupee, which last year posted the biggest annual gain since at least 1974, may reach 39 this month according to many observers.
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Merry Xmas and A Happy New Year

2007-12-25T12:36:13.992-08:00

Well, a Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year to all my readers. Thank you for taking the time and trouble to pass-by. This blog will now - failing major and surprising new developments in the global economy - be offline till the end of the first week in January, or till after the festival of Los Reyes Magos in Spain (for those of you who know what this is all about). Come to think of it, maybe this is just what our ever hopeful central bankers are in need of even as I write - some surprise presents from the three wise men - but I fear that this year if these worthy gentlemen do somehow show at the next G7 meet, the star in the east which draws them will not be the one described in the traditional texts, but in all likelihood the rising star of India.

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Credit crunch, did someone use the expression credit crunch?



Japan in 2008 ... ZIRP Coming Closer?

2007-12-25T12:36:44.346-08:00

by Claus VistesenNone of the writers here at Japan Economy Watch are professional forecasters and analysts per se. Yet, with what seems to be happening 'next' in Japan I can not help but think that you have been extraordinarily well served here at JEW during the past year. As such, let us have a look at what I said on Japan (and indeed the global economy) about a year ago as we stood on the brink of 2007.(...) we have the Top 10 of economic predictions for 2007 by Global Insight where the chief economist Nariman Behavesh argues that the BOJ is likely to have raised to 1% by the end of 2007; this would then imply three 0.25% steps from the current level 0.25%. As you will see this is a part of a broad discourse concerning how global interest rates differentials will narrow as the Fed is going to cut while the BOJ and the ECB are going to raise; for the record I do not see this happening at all! Now, the ever perceptive readers of this blog will immediately notice the apparent rather peculiar reason as to why I am feeling so smug in my introduction. In this way and apart, of course from the BOJ raising to 1%, isn't this thing of 'narrowing' of global interest rate differentials exactly what we have seen? It could indeed seem so as the Fed's aggressive easing have coincided with a fixed stance in Japan and increases moving over to holding operations at the ECB. However, this is also where I would like to start the whole 'what will happen in 2008' debate since how sustainable is this current state of affairs amongst the three G3 economies? Well, as for the US they have already bitten the bullit. The subprime mess is still pounding away with the recent victims being Morgan Stanley and Bear Sterns having to push the big delete button on a slew of internal balance sheets as it became clear that the subprime debacle had claimed yet another score of assets. But the US economy in general and while certainly still on the ropes is on its way to get to grips with its new situation and get on with the fight. I won't even begin to rant on the Eurozone here where I fear that 2008 will be a year of many a camel swallowing (or was that cold pouridge?) by those who have been pushing the Goldilocks narrative the hardest. Let me move swiftly over to Japan where as can readily be seen the BOJ has not managed to raise the short term interest rate to 1%, far from it actually. I should note in this context that I am not trying to pound excessively on Global Insight and its chief economist who I am sure is a very able and smart analyst. I am simply trying to hammer down that the consensus on Japan as it emerged from 2006 has not exactly materialised and what we now need to do is to understand why as well as we need to look forward as to what will happen next. I will begin with the latter question as Bloomberg today carries a piece on Japan where it is actually suggested that the BOJ will have to lower rates which effectively would take them back into ZIRP ...Toshihiko Fukui's final act as governor of the Bank of Japan may be to cut borrowing costs for the first time in more than six years. Economists began predicting Fukui, 72, will have to lower rates after the Bank of Japan yesterday downgraded its assessment of the economy for the first time in three years. The bank has raised rates twice since July 2006, when it ended a policy of keeping borrowing costs near zero to beat a decade of deflation. ``They may have to cut,'' said Robert Feldman, head of economic research at Morgan Stanley in Tokyo. ``As Fukui said yesterday, the economy is getting worse.'' This is of course far from being a done deal but it is interesting to see how the discourse kicked off in 2006 with sustainable recovery stories f[...]



Capital Inflows into India and Rupee Appreciation

2007-12-25T12:35:17.637-08:00

Well, this is headed I think to become topic of the year again in 2008. Arpitha Bykere has a post up today on RGE Monitor, and I had a piece on Friday up on India Economy Blog.I think here that perhaps three charts tell it all. First we have the capital inflows themselves:And then secondly we have the changing relative dollar values of global GDP, which is a topic that takes us straight into the whole debate about "decoupling" and "recoupling". Basically there seem to be two versions of the "decoupling" thesis knocking about. The first of these (which is now very definitely going out of fashion very fast) was based on the idea that the global economy was finally decoupling itself from the US one due to the fact that key global engines among the G7-type economies - and in particular Germany and Japan (and following in both cases lengthy periods of structural reforms) - were finally coming out of a long period of sub-par economic growth and achieving "home grown", domestic-demand-driven, sustainable recoveries in a way which would enable them to take more of the global strainBut there is another sense of "decoupling" (which is the one Claus Vistesen and I prefer to call "recoupling" - although this is not, it should be noted - recoupling in the way in which Nouriel Roubini (for example) uses the expression, which seems to refer to some form of renewed coupling to a US economy which is basically on its way down, not in GDP growth terms - although there may of course be a recession - but in dollar share of world GDP terms) and this is to do with the way in which certain emerging market economies (the EU 10, Ukraine, Russia, China, India, Turkey, Brazil, Argentina, Chile etc) are now accounting for a very substantial proportion of global growth (Claus and I have yet to do the detailed numbers on this, but suffice it to say that India, China and Russia alone will account for over 30 % of the growth in the global economy in 2007). This is a far cry from the central role which the US economy was playing in global growth in the late 1990s. So in this sense something fundamental has changed, and this is what Claus and I are calling "recoupling". This situation can be observed quite clearly in the two charts which follow, which are based on calculations made from data available in the IMF October 2007 World Economic Outlook database. Now, as can be seen in the first chart the weight of the US economy in the entire global economy has been declining since 2001 (and that of Japan since the early 1990s). At the same time - and again particularly since 2001 - the weight of the soc called BRIC economies (Brazil, Russia, China and India) has been rising steadily. This is just one example - and a very crude one at that - of why Claus and I consider that demographics is so important, since it is precisely the population volume of the BRIC countries (and the fact that they start their development process from a very low base, ie they were allowed to become very poor comparatively, for whatever reason) that makes this transformation so significant. Again, if we come to look at shares in world GDP growth we can see the steadily rising importance of these economies in recent years and the significantly weaker role of "home grown" US growth. The impact of the collapse of the Tech stocks/internet boom in 2001 is clear enough in the chart, as is the fact that everyone went down at the same time, and this is the old form of "coupling" wherein the US economy due, to its size (and hence specific weight) and "above-par" growth potential played a key role, and, as can be seen, when the US went down, then god save the rest. The present debate is really about what will happen if[...]



Thailand's Economy - At a Crossroads?

2007-12-24T14:34:27.426-08:00

by Claus Vistesen: CopenhagenAs we never tire of pointing out here at this space the analysis and proper understanding of the global economy and more specifically her markets demand a vigorous interaction and -play between the overall broad conceptual analysis and the more nitty-gritty country analysis. Today, and as most people, in the Western World at least, rev up for some of that most scarce and precious quality time with friends and family I feel inclined to wander off over to Thailand for one last spout of economic analysis before closing down for the holidays. Before I start I think it would be only fair to point out that I am not exactly an expert when it comes to Thailand's economy but rather I shall progress in the spirit of traditional writings here at GEM where authors attempt to aspire to the ideal and tradition of the polymath rather than towards the profile of the 'genius savant' in one specialist area.Yet, and despite my denial of expertise in the area of Thai economics I think it is safe to say that Thailand commands a rather special place in the whole global economic framework for two main reasons. The first is strictly endogeous to political life in Thailand, where the frequency with which governments are toppled by the military only to be subsequently re-inserted (with a quick change of label), is rather high when compared with most other members of the emerging economies leading group.The lastest example of this tendency was handed to us a little over a year ago when General Sonthi Boonyaratglin ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and declared that a military junta would stay in power for a year. Such abrupt changes of government (and of course the way of changing them) have a tendency not to go down too well with foreign investors and naturally have tended to affect the ability of Thailand to attract foreign capital inflows, as well as to act as a source of outflows. Of course, many would, at this point in time, simply exclaim that since these things are now a natural part of the political cycle in Thailand they are already well priced-in to current market premiums. I will leave this issue here and simply note that whatever importance we ascribe to the political situation in Thailand, an interventionist military is certainly part of the picture and needs to be taken into account.The second reason for Thailand's rather special position in the international economic environment is to be found by going back to 1997 and the Asian currency and financial crisis. As I am sure many of our readers remember Thailand acted was one of the principle centres of attention during the boom phase and then one of the victims of the sudden and abrupt retrenchment of private inflows to emerging markets which occured during the Spring and Summer of 1997. This would then translate into a modern day 'once bitten twice shy' mantle and although I am unsure whether this actually applies for Thailand it serves us well always to remember that debating capital flows in the context of Thailand always will tend to have that historical glow around it.Where now for Thailand? In order to deliver a reasonable crack at answering this after all very general question I need to invoke the headline of this note. In my opinion and as I will try to argue below Thailand is now at a crossroads. On the one hand Thailand finds itself right smack in the middle of the sweet spot relative to the ongoing demographic transition known as the demographic dividend. As we know this does not by any means constitute free lunches - of which, of course, there are very few, if any - but rather a golden opportunity for Thailand to move now in order to m[...]



Thailand's Demographic Window of Opportunity

2007-12-24T14:33:45.194-08:00

This post is really a supplement to Claus's post Thailand at the Crossroads, and a complement to Manuel's election coverage. Now Claus points out that Thailand is in the middle of its ongoing Demographic Transition, and at the high point of that favourable moment when what has become known to economists as the Demographic Dividend process is at its height.The demographic transition is - in simple language - a movement upwards in population median ages. Societies (one after another) move steadily from being high fertility, low life expectancy, low median age ones (think Niger, or Mali, or Uganda right now), to low fertility, high life expectancy, high median age ones (think Germany, Japan and Italy) in a more or less steady and ongoing fashion. We know of course what the starting point of this transition is (the above mentioned high fertility societies have a median age in the 17/18 range) but we don't know where the end point is, since while Germany, Japan and Italy currently have a median age of 43 things clearly are not set to stop at this point, and we won't really know what the ceiling is in this process till we reach it. So on this count we have to watch and wait. But observing the evolution of these three "elderly" societies we can identify some of the processes which are at work as population median ages rise, so while we are waiting for the final readout there is still plenty of work to be done - in terms of policy measures to be adopted - in the meantime. Thailand is one of those fortunate countries who, having arrived on the developing economy scene rather later than others, can learn somewhat from those who have gone before. If she is ready willing and able to listen that is.Median AgesNow Claus and I do put quite a lot of store by the median age reading of a society, and we do this for all sorts of reasons. Basically median ages serve as a very convenient proxy for all kinds of economically important phenomena like saving and borrowing, fixed capital formation, construction activity and export dependence, productivity, and ultimately labour and consumer supply. The movement up through the various median age levels involves a constant change in population structure, and at one point these changes are very favourable to economic development. These positive changes provide the background to what is known as the demographic dividend process. At the end of the day the transition from being a very low median age to being a very high one involves a shift in the dependent population, from having a very high proportion of young dependent population to having a very high proportion of elderly dependent. In the middle lie the most favourable years, which come in two stages. In the first stage there is simply an increase in the volume of people available for the transition to work in an expanding market economy. This could be thought of as the accumulation of inputs phase - during which time, as we can see in the chart below, the rate of population inctrease continues to be large - and at this point a societies ability to incorporate ever more people into relatively low-value economic activities at a rapid rate produces a growth spurt - like the one we are seeing now in many of the emerging economies. This is why, for example, Thailand can easily contemplate annual growth rates of 7 or 8 percent at this point without setting off the inflation alarms, something which, unfortunately, is not possible in Eastern Europe. But the dividend doesn't end just when the steady downward movement in fertility starts to make itself felt by reducing the inflow of young workers at the labour market entry [...]



The Uncomfortable Rise Of The Rupee?

2007-12-24T14:38:01.307-08:00

Well I'm afraid I'm not quite done with the Economist on India yet (see this extensive post to read the story so far), since our sterling correspondent, undaunted by the failure of all that vindaloo curry he had been eating to overheat anything more than his own digestive tracts our is now worrying about, guess what, the rise of the rupee.As he says, in a post whose title I have ironically cited in this one:The rupee's rise may be less dramatic than that of the Philippine peso, Brazilian real or Turkish lira. But it is uncomfortable nonetheless.Quite so, just like a strong vindaloo without the obligatory mango lassi as accompaniment it a rising currency produces its own kind of dispeptic discomfort. But hold on a second, mightn't a rising currency in India actually be good news, and in any event inevitable. Nothing it seems is ever good news where India is concerned for our valiant correspondant, and everything needs to be tinged with it's due dose of schadenfreund.So what then is all the fuss about? Well the rupee certainly is rising. Here is a chart showing how it has risen vis-a-vis the US dollar over the last 2 years.As the Economist India corresponent points out, India's currency has strengthened by about 15% against the dollar in the last year alone, and by over 10%, on an inflation-adjusted, trade-weighted basis, since August 2006. And why is this. Again our correspondent is pretty much to the point:This vigour is due to a strong inflow of foreign capital, some of it enticed by India's promise, the rest disillusioned by the rich world's financial troubles. The net inflow amounted to almost $45 billion in the year to March, compared with $23.4 billion a year earlier.Although I can't for the life of me understand why the latest data he has is from back in March. Can't this guy ever do a professional job? Data up to the start of December is readily available here, and fascinating reading it is, as you can see it in the chart below.As we can see, while the net inflow of external funds in the year to March - as proxied by the level of foreign exchange reserves held at the Reserve Bank of India -was $45 billion, the net inflow between 31st March 2007 and the start of December has been $74.4 billion, or not that far from double the whole amount that entered in whole fiscal 2007/2008 in just 9 months (and $41 billion of this since 15 August). This is, of course staggering, but unfortunately, it seems, you aren't going to read about just how staggering it is in the pages of the Economist since over there we are still looking at last years data (the last time I cricised them they said I was cross, this time I am angry aren't I, does it show?). As can be seen directly from the chart, the money really started to flow in from mid-September and the very fast rate of inflow continued till mid November.Now the locus classicus on all this is certainly Morgan Stanley's Chetan Ahya, really it was this post of his which alerted me to the extent and significance of what was happening.Over the seven weeks ending November 2, 2007, India’s foreign exchange reserves have increased by US$34 billion (annualized inflow of US$250 billion). Indeed, the trailing 12-month sum of FX reserves has increased to US$100 billion. This compares with the average annual increase of US$38 billion over three years prior to these seven weeks. With the current account still in deficit, the increase in reserves is being driven largely by a spike in capital inflows and to a very small extent because of conversion of non-dollar reserves into dollars. During the last seven weeks in which FX reserves ha[...]



China Inflation November 2007

2007-12-24T14:35:47.081-08:00

China's inflation accelerated at the quickest pace in 11 years and the trade surplus swelled, adding pressure on the central bank to raise interest rates and let the currency appreciate faster to cool the economy. Consumer prices rose 6.9 percent in November from a year earlier after climbing 6.5 percent in October, the statistics bureau said today.


(image)

Surging food and fuel costs and a record $238 billion surplus in the first 11 months have prompted the government to name inflation and overheating as the biggest threats to growth. U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is in Beijing to press for yuan gains that would narrow the trade gap and staunch the flow of money into the world's fastest-growing major economy.

The yuan gained by the most in a month against the dollar. The currency, which has climbed 12 percent since a fixed exchange rate was scrapped in July 2005, rose 0.22 percent to 7.3792 per dollar as of 4:46 p.m. in Shanghai from 7.3952 late yesterday. It touched 7.3770, the highest since the end of the dollar link.

The People's Bank of China last week ordered lenders to set aside 14.5 percent of deposits as reserves, up from 13.5 percent. China's one-year lending rate is at a nine-year high of 7.29 percent after five increases this year.

The trade surplus climbed 14.7 percent to $26.3 billion in November from a year earlier, the third-biggest monthly total, the customs bureau said today. The $15.2 billion trade surplus with the U.S. pushed the 11-month total with that country to $149.2 billion.

China's money-supply growth exceeded the central bank's annual target for a 10th straight month as a ballooning trade surplus pumped cash into the world's fastest- growing major economy.

M2, the broadest measure of money supply, rose 18.5 percent to 40 trillion yuan ($5.4 trillion) in November from a year earlier, the People's Bank of China said today on its Web site.



The Economist on India

2007-12-24T14:38:58.710-08:00

Well, I am revving myself up again now to come back at all those people who said that India was overheating when it was growing away at a mere 8%. In fact India grew at an 8.9% year on year rate during the last quarter (and this following 9.1% in the first and 9.3% in the second quarters of 2007), and far from inflation shooting through the roof it is currently not too far from the Reserve Bank of India's 5% target. Perhaps it is towards China that people should be directing their attention, or towards Eastern Europe, or even - god forbid - the eurozone, but India it seems is one country where the "great overheating" argument is steadily running out of steam. Of course one country which everyone will readily admit is not overheating is Japan, but I thinkwe'll leave that topic on one side for today.Here I just want to repost part of a reply I gave to the Economist when they had the kindness to try to answer some points I had raised about the general quality of their economic coverage, and about what I take to be their obsession with ignoring the demographic component in economic growth. For the Economist, it seems, growth and development is a single issue item, and is all about insitutions, and institutional quality. Which makes it kind of funny that Argentina, which must be among the worst of the emerging economy pack in institutional quality is still powering away, despite more or less openly manipulating the economic data.Obviously institutions matter, but so does demography. This is not a one horse race, or if you prefer, this particular horse doesn't only run on one leg.The topic in question here is India's potential growth rate. Recent GDP performance at just under 9% must have been astounding many of India's critics, especially given the way inflation, despite all that growth, has been kept pretty much under control.Wholesale price inflation has been preforming even better:So to go to the start of our story, back in September 2006, I post a piece on the India Economy Blog entitled "Uncharted Water" where I argued precisely the following:What is clear is that the Indian economy is currently gathering steam,and this at a time when there is a general consensus that the political will forreform isn’t what it used to be. Strange isn’t it?My meaning here isn’t that reforms aren’t necessary, but that there are otherfactors at work, and in particular demographic ones. The importance of thesedemographic factors generally can be seen from the fact that it is now the newlydeveloping countries (China, India, Brazil, Chile, Thailand, Turkey) who arepulling the global economy (and in the process pushing up energy and commodityprices). The developed world - which makes up say 50% of global GDP is growingmuch more slowly than the developing world - and some of this for ageing relateddemographic reasons. Global GDP is forecast to grow at a 5% annual rate thisyear, yet the US is growing at around 3.5%, Japan 2.5% and the eurozone around2%. So you tell me, who is pulling who here?And this is why I say we are moving into uncharted territory. Economistsused to have a little model which worked on the assumption of each economyhaving a certain growth capacity in any given moment. But could any one tell me,what *is* the growth capacity of China or India? I certainly have no idea, and Ihaven’t seen anyone else make a convincing case on this topic. The magnitude ofthe growth we are now seeing in the developing world is beyond all historicalprecedent.Doesn't look to bad at all does it, in the light of what has been happeni[...]



Japan in a 'Mild Recession?' ... Sounds about Right to Me

2007-12-23T00:25:15.582-08:00

by Claus VistesenDuring 2007, myself and especially Feldman and Takehiro Sato from Morgan Stanley have tended to move pretty much in unison when it comes to the economic analysis on Japan (non colluding!). Of course, this is very much due to the fact that I always make sure to read, at least, what the MS' Japan analysts have to say before saying anything myself on Japan. In this way, it is one thing to actually follow other analysts whereas an entirely different thing is to agree with them. However, it just so happens that I have largely agreed with the way Sato in particular covering the day-to-day analysis and Feldman have narrated the Japanese economy in 2007. This time around however it seems that Morgan Stanley might just be trailing me and my colleagues at JEW a little bit. At least, the following sounds very much as the tone which has been banging from the pages of Alpha.Sources' Japan pages as well as of course Japan.Economy.Watch' (JEW link above) day-to-day coverage and analysis for some time now.Japan's economy is headed for a ``mild recession'' that could be worsened should a bigger-than- expected U.S. slowdown halt the nation's export-led expansion, Morgan Stanley said. ``It's time to buckle up,'' Takehiro Sato, chief Japan economist at the investment bank, said in a report yesterday. Sato cut next year's growth estimate for Japan in half, saying ``errant'' government policy has hurt consumers and the building industry at home, and credit problems stemming from the subprime- mortgage crisis will stifle demand from abroad. The world's second-largest economy is becoming more dependent on overseas markets just as world growth looks set to slow. Policies meant to protect homeowners from building fraud and borrowers from predatory lenders have hurt an economy that's already struggling with falling wages and record gas prices. ``The foreign-demand growth scenario for Japan's economy appears to be approaching a tipping point,'' Sato said. ``Coming on top of high energy prices, the fallout from the subprime crisis and errant policies will likely cause economic activity to stagnate.'' Sato slashed his 2008 growth estimate to 0.9 percent from 1.9 percent a month ago. He considers growth of less than 1 percent ``for an extended period,'' to constitute a ``mild recession.''Of course, you would be well entitled at this point to ask just what this idea of a mild recession actually means. According to Sato it is defined by growth in the sub 1 % category for an extended period as you can confirm above. The question would then seem to be whether in fact not Japan might be heading for negative growth rates too? Difficult to say but the risk is definitely there I think. Also, I really want to warn against the discourse which is emerging about all this being the result of errant government policy. Institutions matter for sure but Japan's economy is faced with a far more potent driving force in its population structure and the last thing we need here is really that this is neglected while politicians are taking the heat even if those very same have not exactly put in a stellar performance. The thing is, people need to get their economic reasoning straight. Back in the beginning of 2006 and as we moved onwards from the ending of ZIRP in Japan myself and my colleague Edward Hugh were literally amazed to how the majority of the economic punditry came out exclaiming that now Japan was back amongst the leaders to paraphrase the FT's otherwise excellent Martin Wolf. And no[...]



Where is Japan Heading?

2007-12-23T00:27:37.098-08:00

by Claus Vistesen[This is a big one and if you are not in the mood I recommend that you just skip down to my summary which should give you the main thrust of my argument and analysis. This note also features over at my personal weblog Alpha.Sources.] I would imagine that the answer to the question above remains quite at the forefront of many an investor's and economic analyst's mind. In this entry I will try to most modestly give interpretation of the road which lies immediately ahead for Japan's economy as we are about to receive Q3 GDP numbers on the 13th November. As per usual I am basing my analysis on the firmly established principle of standing on the shoulders of giants as well as I will field my traditional array of monthly charts updating the evolution of prices and household spending. Moreover, I will also, in the light of comments received outside the walls of the JEW and Alpha.Sources as well as the general interest in the subject, give my interpretation of where the Yen is going to be positioned in the months and quarters to come. Lastly, I will note the rather large and ugly downside which has emerged in the realm of the housing market and residential investment since this might just be the push which shoves Japan into a near recession path as we get to Q4 2007. I will finish off with a summary including remarks on the future course of policy at the BOJ as well as some brief comments on what seems to be clear signs of reform fatigue in Japan as well as the potential of uncertain times at the BOJ with respect to governance.As you will see, Edward already has some snippets up (on JEW) on September exports, industrial production, and retail sales as well as the labour market. If we take a brief look at what these data releases have to say we can see that the outlook is steadily beginning to look ever so wobbly for Japan although, as I will also show below, household spending seems to be making a most welcome comeback. In terms of the external position we had one of the most negative news points as exports slowed quite significantly. Yet, we must always remember that there are two sides to the trade balance and an offsetting decline in imports helped to keep the trade balance to a record surplus. Yet, this does confirm the general outlook that the external environment just might be cooling off into the rest of 2007 from what has also been a red hot frantic pace. What remains is clearly that since external demand constitutes the main driver for Japan's economy any faltering on this account will translate swiftly into growth rates. On industrial production the picture is still somewhat clouded by the earthquake a few months back and as such the decline in September's IP comes on the back of a surge in August and should really be read accordingly. What should be noted however, as you can also see by the graph Edward fields is that IP still remains high relative to the beginning of the year which suggests that the readings should be taken with a pinch of salt. In this way I would not be surprised to see a further drop in October which would pair the surge seen in August and bring us back to a point below the high levels of Q4 2006. Finally, on retail sales Edward reported that they managed to push up a small 0.5% increase y-o-y thus showing some very welcome numbers outside the red for the first time in 2007. Yet, two things need to be remembered here. Firstly, as Edward notes there is a low base effect here since sales in September 2006 were comparat[...]