Let’s look at the bright side. The Japanese economy isn’t as bad as had been expected. Oh, it’s bad all right. It’s just not jump out of a window bad.
The Japanese government reported on Tuesday that gross domestic product contracted 1.1% during the fourth quarter of 2015, despite intense efforts to stimulate the world’s third-largest economy.
The number was a sharp drop from the 1.4% expansion in the third quarter, but it came in better than the forecast for a 1.4% contraction.
“Companies have not been as downbeat about production in the month ahead since the 2008 recession. What’s more, consumer spending fell further in January as indicated by dips in ‘core’ household spending and retail sales,” said Marcel Thieliant of Capital Economics according to the Associated Press.
Japan’s economy grew 0.5% last year after flat lining in 2014.
The report is a smack in the face to Japanese officials who have taken many actions to stimulate the economy. Last month, the Bank of Japan imposed a “negative interest rate” policy to stimulate investment and get commercial banks lending money. Essentially, the negative rate is a penalty for holding onto cash, and that has driven bond yields and interest rates on mortgages and savings deposits lower.
The thing is, the Japanese are investing. Just not in Japan. Many are investing overseas, and those that aren’t are stashing their cash at home, which is causing a run on safes, one of the few sectors where demand is rising.
Next week, the central bank will hold a policy meeting. And economists are trying to figure out if the BOJ will expand asset purchases that are pumping trillions of yen into the economy to help combat deflation. Other moves could include a second delay in a sales tax hike scheduled for April 2017.