Two days after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe secured a pledge from Japan Inc. to do its best to boost wages to revive the world’s third-biggest economy, data showed companies hoarding record amounts of cash.
Corporate holdings of cash and deposits rose 4.2 percent from a year earlier to ¥233 trillion at the end of September, increasing every quarter for the past six years, according to the Bank of Japan. At the same time, firms’ assets in direct investment overseas rose to a record ¥73 trillion.
While Abe and BOJ Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda have urged business leaders to distribute more of the profits generated by the weak yen, companies are not buying into the plan. Declining capital expenditure helped drive a mid-year recession, households’ real incomes are falling, and firms trimmed their inflation outlook and predict the yen’s depreciation will not last.
“The big cash holdings say Abe has a lot to do,” said Daiju Aoki, an economist at UBS Group AG. “Companies still have a deflationary mindset. That mountain of money has to flow into the economy in investment and wage growth to ensure the end of deflation.”
Abe is under pressure to deliver on pledges to revive the economy after a landslide election win this week. At a meeting of business and labor leaders on Tuesday, Abe said he requested that companies do their utmost to raise pay in next year’s spring wage negotiations.
“In particular, I want companies with high profits that are benefiting from the weak yen to raise wages, investment, and on top of that, consider the prices they pay their suppliers,” Abe said.
Kuroda said in a speech last month to business leaders in Nagoya that hoarding cash will become costly as the BOJ stamps out deflation with unprecedented easing. He called on companies to use profits more productively by investing in facilities and jobs, taking advantage of the weaker yen.
The yen has fallen 27 percent against the dollar since Abe took office in December 2012, helping drive up earnings of big exporters including Toyota Motor Corp. which forecasts a record profit for the year through March.
Large manufacturers saw the yen at 103.36 per dollar in the year through the end of March, according to the BOJ’s tankan quarterly business survey, released this week. The survey was conducted Nov. 12 to Dec. 12, a period when the yen was trading between 115 and 121 per dollar.
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