Business / Economy

Japan's household spending falls for fifth straight month in January


Household spending dropped for the fifth straight month in January, falling an inflation-adjusted 3.1 percent from a year earlier due to unusually warm weather, the government said Tuesday.

Average monthly household spending in January totaled ¥280,973, according to data released by the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry.

The ministry maintained its assessment that the trend of weak consumption has continued.

The persistent sluggish tone is the latest warning to the Japanese economy, which shrank an annualized 1.4 percent in the October-December period, weighed down by weak consumer spending which accounts for about 60 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.

The downbeat spending outcome follows the government cautioning Monday that it expects a sharp drop in industrial production in February due to slack exports to China.

A ministry official said heating, electricity and water expenses fell 10.7 percent, weighed down by a fall in heating bills amid relatively high temperatures in early January.

Warmer weather conditions helped cut clothing and shoe spending by 5.9 percent due to lower sales of winter wear, while leisure expenses dropped 3.8 percent on the back of a fall in demand for skiing tours, the official said.

Koya Miyamae, senior economist at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc., said weather conditions cannot fully explain the continued weakness of consumption.

A rise in imported food prices amid the yen’s weakness has kept consumers cautious about spending.

Meanwhile Japan continues to feel the lingering adverse impact of many companies having eaten into future demand by sharply increasing their purchasing ahead of the April 2014 consumption tax hike, Miyamae said.

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