Retail sales in Japan exceed forecast

Updated: 2012-02-29 07:59

(China Daily)

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TOKYO - Japan's retail sales exceeded economists' forecasts in January, signaling a recovery in consumer spending will help the world's third-largest economy return to growth this quarter.

Sales rose 1.9 percent from a year earlier, after a 2.5 percent increase in December, the Trade Ministry said in Tokyo on Tuesday.

The median forecast of 15 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News was for a 0.1 percent decline. From a month earlier, sales gained 4.1 percent.

Car sales jumped 24 percent, the most in 22 years, after the government re-introduced a subsidy for buyers of so-called eco-cars.

A pick-up in household spending and reconstruction work after last year's earthquake and tsunami may aid an expansion in gross domestic product this quarter after a contraction in the final three months of 2011.

"The unusual surge in retail sales in January is mostly due to the special factor of government subsidies for eco-cars," said Takuji Okubo, chief Japan economist at Societe Generale SA in Tokyo. "Excluding that factor, Japanese consumption is resilient."

While Japan's economy shrank an annualized 2.3 percent in the final three months of last year, RBS Securities Japan Ltd has forecast an expansion of 1.6 percent this quarter.

Improving sentiment

The consumer confidence index climbed to 40 in January, the highest since February 2011, the Cabinet Office said on Feb 9. Monthly wages including overtime and bonuses rose for the first time in 7 months, increasing a revised 0.1 percent in December from a year earlier, according to the Labor Ministry data released on Feb 17.

A recovery in household demand, which slumped in the aftermath of the March 11 disaster as weaker confidence and electricity shortages kept people at home, is helping retailers.

Yamada Denki Co, an electronics-store operator, forecast earnings that beat analysts' estimates on Feb 9. Seven & I Holdings Co, a convenience store chain, plans to open 300 outlets over the next three years that include self-service gas stands, the Nikkei newspaper reported on Feb 21.

Aluminum shipments

Japan's shipments of rolled-aluminum products dropped 0.1 percent on year in January, a slower pace than December, as recovery in demand from the auto and building sectors almost offset weaker sales to machinery and can makers.

Supplies to domestic and export markets dropped to 156,455 tons last month from 156,643 tons a year earlier, the Japan Aluminium Association said on Tuesday in a statement. The pace of decrease decelerated from December's 6.1 percent.

Bloomberg News