Japan is escaping deflation, the government said on Friday as data showing rising prices, falling unemployment, higher incomes and factory activity gathering momentum pointed to an ongoing recovery in the world's third-largest economy.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the Bank of Japan have gambled on massive fiscal and monetary stimulus to spark life into the economy, and the accumulating signs of an upswing are seen strengthening the case for a planned sales tax increase.
Friday's data painted a brightening picture for a country seeking to escape 15 years of debilitating deflation: core consumer prices posted their biggest rise in nearly five years, unemployment fell to its lowest since late 2008, factory output rose and is expected to rise further, and workers' incomes rose.
"Japan is escaping from deflation," Economics Ministers Akira Amari told reporters.
Pessimists have argued that the benefits of "Abenomics," a three-pillar strategy of fiscal and monetary stimulus combined with a long-term growth strategy, may be short-lived and won't prompt companies to spend more on investment and wages.
And while the rise in prices has been driven largely by higher electricity bills and a weaker yen that has pushed up import costs, the job market strength and rising incomes bode well for personal consumption, which has been a key driver of the recovery.
Shopping patterns of Chinese visitors to Japan, known for "explosive buying," or "bakugai" in Japanese, showed signs of change during this year's Chinese Lunar New Year holidays that ended on Saturday. (Jiji Press)
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has held a meeting with his top financial diplomat, as well as the Bank of Japan's governor, amid a report the "architect of Abenomics" had called for a Group of 20-wide response to the market rout. (cnbc.com)
Tokyo Electric Power, whose Fukushima Daiichi power plant was the scene of a nuclear disaster nearly five years ago, may get approval to resume nuclear power generation at another facility as soon as this summer, as Japan's nuclear safety agency is moving toward giving the "all clear" to the utility's Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture. (Nikkei)
Dubbed the "Black Widow" after the mate-eating spider, Chisako Kakehi awaits trial: Initially arrested on suspicion of murdering eight lovers for insurance payouts, her case is notorious in Japan as much for its body count as the shortcomings of the investigation. (scmp.com)
The Kobe District Court on Friday sentenced the daughter-in-law of a woman, who is believed to have masterminded a series of murders in the western Japan city of Amagasaki, to 23 years in prison. (Japan Today)
Los Angeles alternative rock outfit Red Hot Chili Peppers and Icelandic post-rock trio Sigur Ros were among acts named Friday to perform at the 20th anniversary of Fuji Rock Festival in July. (Japan Times)