• Bloomberg


The gridlock in the Diet threatens to curtail the government’s ability to apply fiscal stimulus as the economic rebound falters.

Opposition parties in the Upper House stymied legislation approved by the Lower House on Aug. 28 that would enable the issuance of ¥38.3 trillion in deficit-financing bonds, seeking to force Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda into an early election.

The government could hit a spending ceiling as soon as October, according to the Finance Ministry.

The freeze could suspend outlays from this year’s budget for the first time, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and limits Noda from proceeding with the supplementary spending package he proposed in July.

With economists increasingly seeing an economic contraction this quarter, the deadlock adds to risks facing global expansion that include a so-called fiscal cliff of spending cuts and tax increases in the U.S. at year’s end.

“The impasse on deficit-covering bonds may delay the compilation of a stimulus package and would be a drag for the economy,” said Taro Saito, Tokyo-based director of economic research at NLI Research Institute and a past winner of a Japan Center for Economic Research award for accuracy in forecasting. “This is not as severe as the U.S. fiscal cliff but could be said to be Japan’s fiscal slope.”

Besides the yen’s appreciation, Japan’s manufacturers are facing diminishing demand abroad, hurt by the European crisis, China’s slowdown and stunted American growth. A government report Monday showed that capital spending rose 6.6 percent in the second quarter from a year before, less than the 7.8 percent median estimate in a Bloomberg survey.

The report spurred economists to cut forecasts for second-quarter gross domestic product, initially reported at an annualized 1.4 percent gain. Officials may pare that calculation to 0.9 percent next Monday, according to the median of seven projections in a Bloomberg survey.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse Group AG and BNP Paribas SA see a contraction in GDP this quarter, the first slide since back-to-back declines in the first half of 2011, when Japan was hit by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

The Diet fiscal impasse is an echo of political struggles in the U.S., where Republicans and Democrats have failed to agree on a phased plan to rein in the budget deficit. The split leaves the economy facing some $600 billion in preset tax increases and spending cuts at the end of the year.

U.S. manufacturing stagnated in August after shrinking the previous month, a Bloomberg survey indicated. In the eurozone, producer prices probably rose at a slower pace in July, gaining 1.6 percent from a year before, a separate survey showed.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Australia’s central bank was projected to leave its benchmark interest rate at 3.5 percent even after signs the nation’s mining boom is decelerating. BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s biggest miner, last month mothballed projects valued by Credit Suisse Group and Deutsche Bank AG at more than 50 billion Australian dollars ($51 billion).

This is the second straight year that opposition lawmakers in Japan have held up enactment of the deficit-financing legislation.

In 2011, they agreed to its passage only after then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan had signaled he would step down.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.