The government said Wednesday that an index designed to gauge economic activity in Japan’s tertiary industries slid 0.5 percent in January from the previous month.

This marked its first downturn in four months. The index measures activity in six industries — utilities, transport and telecommunications, wholesale and retail, finance and insurance, real estate, and other services.

It stood at 107.5 against the 1995 base of 100, according to a preliminary report released by the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry.

A ministry official said the downturn occurred because the winter snow had dampened activity in some sectors. The official added, however, that despite the drop, overall tertiary industry activity has not necessarily taken a turn for the worse.

By industry, activity in the services sector fell 3.5 percent, with the entertainment, hotel and merchandise rental industries experiencing a 14.1 percent decline.

The leasing industry also suffered a fall of 10.1 percent, while the information industry saw a 8.2 percent drop.

Activity in the wholesale and retail sector inched down 0.4 percent as wholesaling, which was dragged down by sluggish sales in machinery equipment, medicines and cosmetics, fell 3.5 percent. Retailing rose 3.2 percent.

The utilities industry grew 2.2 percent, however, as the cold weather boosted demand for electricity for heating purposes. Activity in the transport and telecommunications sector was also up 1.1 percent.

The ministry also released data showing that the January index of all industrial activity, which includes industrial output, dropped 1.8 percent to 103.9, marking its first fall in three months.

The all-industry index is based on the activity in the six industries that comprise the tertiary index, combined with activity in the construction, agricultural and fisheries industries, the public sector and industrial

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