Japan’s Industrial Slump Deepens In January

Japanese manufacturing output fell in January by a record 10 per cent month-on-month while new job offers declined 18 per cent, reflecting the deepening recession in the world’s second biggest economy. Industrial production was down a whopping 30.8 per cent year-on-year, as manufacturers of vehicles, electronics parts and devices and general machinery cut output to adjust to the rapid fall in global demand.

According to the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry, which unveiled the figures, production is expected to decrease again in February, by 8.3 per cent, which seems pretty reasonable if you look at the PMI (see below). If production matches forecasts for February and March, we could see a 22.5 per cent decline in output for the first three months of the year, well above the 12 per cent fall in the last quarter of 2008, amd potentially the largest ever quarterly fall in Japanese output. If this is the case Q1 GDP will be a real shocker.

The fall in industrial output is being driven by a fall in Japanese exports, which slumped by a record 45.7 per cent in January.

The February manufacting PMI showed manufacturing activity contracted for a 12th straight month in February, underscoring the fact that the depressed state of Japanese industry is likely to continue. Although the Nomura/JMMA Japan PMI edged up to a seasonally adjusted 31.6 from a record low of 29.6 in January, it remained well below the 50 threshold that separates contraction from expansion.

And if we look at the comparison between PMI and GDP to be seen in the chart below, we can see that Japan may be looking at something like a 5% quarter on quarter contraction at this point, or a 20% annualised rate of contraction.

This is much worse than the Q4 2008 contraction since gross domestic product declined at an annualised rate of 12.7 per cent.

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About Edward Hugh

Edward 'the bonobo is a Catalan economist of British extraction. After being born, brought-up and educated in the United Kingdom, Edward subsequently settled in Barcelona where he has now lived for over 15 years. As a consequence Edward considers himself to be "Catalan by adoption". He has also to some extent been "adopted by Catalonia", since throughout the current economic crisis he has been a constant voice on TV, radio and in the press arguing in favor of the need for some kind of internal devaluation if Spain wants to stay inside the Euro. By inclination he is a macro economist, but his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes has often taken him far from home, off and away from the more tranquil and placid pastures of the dismal science, into the bracken and thicket of demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. All of which has lead him to ask himself whether Thomas Wolfe was not in fact right when he asserted that the fact of the matter is "you can never go home again".