Japan's economy running along on half-empty fuel tank
Bloomberg -- Feb 15
Japan's economy is cruising along, at least by its own recent standards, with real growth clocking in at 1 percent in 2016. It may have reached top speed.

Real gross domestic product expanded for a fourth consecutive quarter at the end of 2016, the best run in more than three years. A number of indicators are flashing green as global demand strengthens and last year's fiscal stimulus kicks in. Exports rose in December for the first time in more than a year, and in the fourth quarter industrial production gained the most in nearly three years.

"Japan is in the best position it's been in in four years," said Izumi Devalier, head of Japan economics at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, who expects a 1.5 percent expansion in real GDP this year--nearly twice the potential growth rate of 0.8 percent. Her forecast ranks the second-highest among those compiled by Bloomberg, behind JPMorgan's 1.6 percent. The median is for 1 percent growth.

The problem, though, is that near-term growth depends on external demand and fiscal stimulus, economists say, meaning the upside and growth horizon are limited. Japan also faces the risk that U.S. President Donald Trump's protectionist rhetoric is soon transformed into policy that disrupts global trade, while the effects of last year's stimulus are expected to fade by the second quarter of next year.

"Unless domestic private consumption picks up the economy is unlikely to gain traction," said Atsushi Takeda, an economist at Itochu Corp. in Tokyo.

A hit to exports would leave Japan's beleaguered consumers to pick up the slack, something they've shown little inclination to do since a sales-tax increase in early 2014. Wages are rising only slightly, even with the tightest labor market in decades.

News source: Bloomberg
Jul 21
The Tokyo District Court on Thursday handed a homeless man a prison sentence extending for three years and six months for starting a fire that damaged a number of buildings in the historic Golden Gai last year, reports Jiji Press. (tokyoreporter.com)
Jul 21
Japan has expanded the list of standardized pictograms used in signboards and posts as part of an effort to better serve foreign visitors in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. (Kyodo)
Jul 21
An informed source in the sumo world says Mongolian Yokozuna Grand Champion Hakuho is considering the option of acquiring Japanese citizenship. The move would allow him to become a stablemaster after retirement and train younger wrestlers. (NHK)
Jul 21
A male worker for a construction company engaged in a project to construct Japan's new National Stadium, the main venue for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, committed suicide in March, a lawyer representing his bereaved relatives revealed Thursday. (Jiji)
Jul 20
The number of criminal offenses reported to police in Japan in January-June fell 7.7 pct from a year earlier to 450,887, on track to hit an annual postwar low, a National Police Agency report showed Thursday. (Jiji)
Jul 20
Policymakers at the Bank of Japan have decided to continue with their easing program in a bid to achieve a 2-percent inflation target. But the officials have revised the forecast date for meeting the target. They say an extra year is needed. (NHK)
Jul 20
The United States is bracing for the possibility of another ballistic missile launch by North Korea. (NHK)
Jul 20
A 49-year-old woman had been arrested after camera footage showed that she had been adding dishwashing detergent to her husband and son's tea, local police said. (Japan Today)
Jul 20
The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant says the metal scaffolding right below the damaged No.3 reactor appears to have gone missing after the 2011 disaster. (NHK)
Jul 20
Students at a junior high school in Tochigi Prefecture’s Takenazawa town have felt ill after eating cheese at the school cafeteria, local board of education representatives said. (Japan Today)