Household Spending in Japan Falls at Record Speed as Coronavirus Stalls Economy

The deadly virus outbreak has affected the global economy a lot as most of the countries imposed lockdowns to contain the spread of COVID-19

The household spending of Japan fell at the most rapid pace on record in the month of April as the coronavirus or COVID-19 shut down travel and the dining-out in the globe's third-biggest economy, and also the idea of higher job losses affected the sentiment of the consumers.

The poor number is going to keep the policymakers under pressure for preventing the large fall in the economy of the country, which is expected to decline further into recession this quarter.

Household Spending in Japan Declines

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Household spending tumbled 11.1 percent in April from a year earlier, government data showed on Friday, marking the fastest pace of decline since comparable data became available in 2001. The decline was slower than a median forecast of a 15.4 percent fall and followed March's 6.0 percent decline.

Many analysts expect consumption to have bottomed out in April or May, as businesses re-open after last month's lifting of nationwide lockdowns. But any rebound will be slow and fragile, as companies and households remain wary of spending, they say. "Unless effective vaccines are developed, a strong recovery cannot be expected for the foreseeable future," said Takeshi Minami, chief economist at Norinchukin Research Institute.

Friday's data showed some winners and losers. Spending on bars, plane tickets, hotels and amusement parks tanked by around 90 percent as households were forced to stay home, the data showed. On the other hand, stay-home policies boosted spending on pasta by 70 percent, instant noodles by 43 percent and sanitary goods like face masks by 124 percent, it showed.

Expected Rise in Job Losses Will Affect Consumption

Overall, however, an expected rise in job losses and the hit to household sentiment from the pandemic will weigh on consumption, analysts say. "A lot of people are out of work and couldn't look for jobs during lockdowns in April. Wages are likely to fall too, which will weigh on consumption," said Yoshiki Shinke, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute.

"Japan's economy will rebound in July-September if there's no renewed spike in infections. Even so, it may take until 2023 or 2024 for the economy to return to pre-COVID levels." Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a state of emergency in April requesting citizens to stay home and businesses to close, hammering an economy that was already suffering from the hit from last year's sales tax hike and the U.S.-China trade war.

The government has compiled two stimulus packages worth a combined $2.2 trillion to combat the virus fallout on the economy, which slipped into recession in the first quarter. While Abe has lifted nationwide lockdowns, analysts expect the economy to suffer an annualized 22 percent contraction in the current quarter and recover only modestly in the second half of this year.

(With agency inputs)

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