Japan’s key consumer prices slid at the fastest pace in 10 years in November, data showed, as the central bank wraps up a policy meeting and the nation battles a resurgence of the coronavirus.
Prices excluding fresh food fell 0.9% from a year earlier, as a steeper drop in energy costs drove the index down further after October’s 0.7% drop, the internal affairs ministry reported Friday. The result matched the median forecast from economists.
While weak prices aren’t expected to trigger more stimulus from the Bank of Japan anytime soon, continued price falls could entrench lower inflation expectations, a longer-term problem for the BOJ. For now, the bank’s focus is making sure markets stay stable and businesses can get credit.
The BOJ later today is widely expected to keep its main policy tools unchanged, but extend special funding programs to support virus-hit businesses.
“The BOJ is already doing what it can on inflation,” said economist Takeshi Minami at Norinchukin Research Institute, referring to the bank’s years of massive bond buying and negative interest rates. “It will try to minimize bankruptcies by bucking up corporate financing. This is a time for the BOJ to be patient.”
BOJ Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda has said he’s not overly concerned about recent price declines because special factors including the impact of the government’s discount campaigns to help the service sector are temporary.
Still, weak inflation data adds to concern that Japan’s recovery is losing momentum as record virus cases cast a chill on sentiment and trigger government moves to limit activity over the holidays.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga this week announced a temporary suspension of his signature Go To Travel campaign. Tokyo on Thursday warned the strain on the city’s hospitals had reached the highest alert level, as the capital announced a record 822 new cases.
The energy drag on overall prices increased to 0.6 percentage point and accounted for most of the extra drop in inflation in November. Electricity prices fell 7.3%.
Accommodation costs continued to weigh on overall inflation by around 0.4 percentage point, with hotel prices down 34% amid the government’s travel-discount campaign.
Overall prices dropped 0.9% from a year earlier, compared with analysts’ forecast for a 0.8% decline.
Inflation excluding fresh food and energy fell 0.3%, matching the median estimate.
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