Japan’s latest land-price data poses a conundrum for economists. Is a 0.7 percent rise in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya prices proof that the central bank’s quantitative-easing program is gaining traction? Or does the 0.3 percent drop in land costs nationwide underscore how persistent deflation remains?

Let’s put this one in the plus column for Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda. It’s clear progress that January land prices in Japan’s three largest metropolitan areas rose even slightly from 12 months earlier, for the second year in a row. Record-low interest rates — and debt yields that have gone negative at times — are boosting housing demand and property investments. It’s promising, too, that the average decline in nationwide values was the smallest in seven years.

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