World News

Japan Jan household spending seen falling for fourth straight month: Reuters poll

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s household spending likely dropped for a fourth straight month in January as a sales tax hike continued to hurt consumers, a Reuters poll showed, suggesting any recovery could be some time away as pressures rise from the coronavirus outbreak.

Household spending is expected to have fallen 4.0% in January from a year earlier, the poll of 16 economists showed, after a 4.8% decline in December.

But from the previous month, household spending is forecast to have risen 0.9% in January, rebounding from a 1.7% fall in December.

Analysts also said warmer weather in January hit sales of seasonal items such as winter clothing.

“Consumers refrained from spending after the sales tax hike and a warm winter also weighed on their expenditure,” said Koya Miyamae, senior economist at SMBC Nikko Securities.

They also noted that the impact on the economy from the new coronavirus would be fully seen in coming months. Infections in Japan have topped 200, with four deaths, and has led to the cancellations of sporting and public events.

“People refrained from going out in February because of the virus outbreak, which likely impacted consumer spending,” said Kenta Maruyama, economist at Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting.

The government will release household spending data at 8:30 a.m. on March 6 (2330 GMT, March 5).

Japan’s economy shrank at the fastest pace in almost six years in the December quarter as the sales tax hike to 10% from 8% in October hit consumer and business spending, raising the risk of a recession as the coronavirus outbreak chills global activity.

(Reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)