• Kyodo

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Japan’s core private-sector machinery orders rose 5.2% in December from the previous month for the third consecutive monthly increase, as more sectors recovered from the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, government data showed Wednesday.

The orders, which exclude those for ships and from electricity utilities due to their volatility, totaled ¥899.61 billion, according to the Cabinet Office, which upgraded its assessment, saying the data indicate a recovery to pre-pandemic levels.

Machinery orders, seen as a leading indicator of capital spending, had increased 17.1% in October, logging the sharpest rise on record, and 1.5% in November.

The office upgraded its assessment of the data for the third month in a row, saying that machinery orders are “picking up.” In the previous month, it said machinery orders were showing “signs of picking up.”

“The three-month moving average shows solid advances (in machinery orders) and a recovery to pre-pandemic levels,” a government official told reporters.

He noted more sectors showed a recovery among both manufacturers and nonmanufacturers, including electrical machinery and information services.

Machinery orders from manufacturers rose 12.2% to ¥387.37 billion after a 2.4% fall in November, with sectors such as electrical machinery including semiconductor-makers advancing on the back of growing demand for chips amid a global shortage.

Orders from nonmanufacturers grew 4.3% to ¥532.71 billion, marking the fourth straight month of increase. Sectors such as finance and insurance as well as transportation and postal businesses contributed to the rise.

Orders from overseas, seen as an indicator of future exports, climbed 1.6% to ¥994.03 billion, up for the third consecutive month. Those from the public sector surged 30.0% to ¥323.99 billion, after a 0.4% rise in the previous month.

Total orders were up 8.8% to ¥2.47 trillion in December, following a 1.5% slip in November.

On a quarterly basis, core orders jumped 16.8% to ¥2.60 trillion in the October-December period, the largest advance since comparable data became available in April 2005.

But for the whole of 2020, core orders dropped 8.4% to ¥9.56 trillion, decreasing for the second year in a row and marking the largest decline since the 27.2% plunge registered in 2009 in the wake of the global financial crisis.

Looking ahead, the Cabinet Office projected an 8.5% decrease in core orders in the January-March quarter from the previous three months.

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