Friday 19 January 2018

Japanese Prime Minister re-elected as GDP shrinks less than expected in second quarter

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (AP)
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (AP)

Yuko Yoshikawa, Kiyoshi Takenaka and Leika Kihara

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won a rare second consecutive term on Tuesday as ruling party chief, and hence premier, pledging to retain focus on reviving the world's third-biggest economy and deepen debate on revising its pacifist constitution.

Abe, who took office in December 2012 promising to reboot a stale economy and bolster Japan's defenses, won another three-year term as Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) president after his only potential rival, former LDP executive Seiko Noda, failed to gain enough sponsors to launch a challenge in the party poll.

"While creating a virtuous economic cycle, I will spread the feeling of recovery to every nook and cranny of the regions and throughout the country, completely escape deflation and create growth in a strong, future-oriented economy," Abe told a crowd of supporters before registering for the vote.

Abe said he would also tackle the problems of Japan's low birth rate and aging population.

Meanwhile, Japan's economy shrank less than expected in the second quarter although capital expenditure fell more than originally forecast, revised data showed, keeping policymakers under pressure to do more to energize the fragile recovery.

Analysts expect any rebound in July-September growth to be feeble as factory output unexpectedly fell in July and China's slowdown dampened prospects for a solid recovery in exports.

The world's third-largest economy shrank an annualized 1.2 percent in April-June, less than the initial estimate of a 1.6 percent contraction, Cabinet Office data showed on Tuesday.

The median market forecast was a revision to a 1.8 percent contraction.

Capital expenditure fell 0.9 percent from the previous quarter, more than a preliminary 0.1 percent drop, clouding the outlook for the world's third-largest economy.

But the weakness in capital spending was offset by gains in inventories, which contribute to economic growth.

Inventory gains added 0.3 percentage point to growth, more than a preliminary 0.1 percent contribution, the data showed.

Japanese policymakers are clinging to the hope that companies will use the record profits they earned from a weak yen and lower energy costs to boost wages and investment, generating a positive cycle of rising income and higher spending.

But a recent batch of soft data has cast doubt on such optimism and the Bank of Japan's argument that a steady recovery will help accelerate inflation to its 2 percent target by around September next year.

The BOJ is expected to offer a bleaker assessment on overseas economies at this month's rate review, sources say, although many in the bank prefer to hold off on expanding stimulus for now.


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