Friday, June 29, 2007

Japan May Core Consumer Prices Fall 0.1% On Year, Friday, June 29, 2007 6:51:35 AM

Japan`s core annual Consumer Price Index - CPI fell 0.1% in May, for the fourth straight month, the Ministry of Internal Affairs said Friday.

The fall was in line with market expectations. The nationwide headline annual CPI remained unchanged in May, although the index edged 0.3% higher over the prior month.

Annually, the headline index remained weighed down by the effects of lower prices of furniture and household utensils, reading and recreation and housing. Furniture and household utensils prices fell 1.4% in May, while reading and recreation, and housing prices slipped 1.4% and 0.3% respectively.

The decreases were partially offset by medical care goods and miscellaneous items, with increases of 1.2% each.

Food prices rose 0.3% from last year, while fuel, light and water charges advanced 0.2%. The core CPI, excluding energy products, fell 0.3% from the previous year.

The overall nationwide prices for goods fell 0.2% from last year, while growth in services prices remained flat in May.

The Ministry said that the core CPI for Tokyo fell 0.1% in June on the year, while the headline index slipped 0.2%. The CPI excluding food and energy products was down 0.3% from last year. Consumer prices for goods in Tokyo fell 0.5% in June, while services price remained unchanged over the previous year.

The BoJ Governor Toshihiko Fukui said on May 17, `Even if the CPI stays slightly negative, the BOJ might move to hike interest rates.`

Friday, commenting on the driving force behind price trends changes, Fukui, however avoided explaining the reasons for Japan`s falling CPI by saying `there won`t be any ultimate answer to the issue,` Nikkei reported.

Bank of Japan Deputy Governor Toshiro Muto said Thursday that the CPI will come under upward pressure once the GDP gap turned positive.

`Although the CPI will likely remain almost flat on the year in the near future, the pace of its yearly growth is expected to quicken gradually over the long term,` Muto said.

BoJ said Tuesday, that the corporate service price index rose 1.4% in May, marking the tenth consecutive monthly rise. The corporate goods price index -CGPI climbed 2.2% from last year in May, beating market expectation.

The latest CPI data may give little room for the BoJ policy board to hike the rates when it meets on July 11 and 12 for its next policy decision. Analysts expect the bank will wait for the release of the GDP data for the second quarter later next month. A pointer to the strength of the economy and corporate business confidence will also emerge with release of BoJ`s Tankan survey on July 2.

Jobless Rate Unchanged at 3.8%, Household expenditure rises

Japan`s jobless rate remained unchanged at 3.8%, while the household expenditure rose 0.4% on year in May, the Ministry of Internal Affairs said Friday in separate reports.

The jobless rate, little changed from last month, marked the lowest level in near nine years. Analysts expected the jobless rate to touch 3.9% in May.

The number of unemployed persons totaled 2.58 million, down 6.9% from a year ago. The employed persons rose 0.8% to 64.99 million, lifting the labor force participation by 0.1% on year to 61.2% in May.

The jobless rate for men fell 0.1% to 3.9% in May, easing to the sub-4 level for the first time since March 1998, while the rate for women stood unchanged at 3.6%.

The 0.4% growth in Japan household spending was driven mainly by a 4.9% increase in medical care and a 4.5% climb in culture and recreational activity. Spending on furniture and household utensils advanced 2.3%, educational expenses climbed 2.0% from last year.

The increases were partially offset by a 3.4% fall in spending on transportation and communication in May.

Meanwhile, the average monthly income per worker`s household rose 1.0% from a year ago. The living expenditure climbed 0.9% over the same period. The propensity to consume, in worker`s households, fell 0.7% to 94.1% in May, the report said.

Housing Starts Fall, Construction Orders Surge

Japanese housing starts declined 10.7% annually in May following a 3.6% decline in the prior month, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport indicated Friday. On annual basis, housing starts totaled 1.155 million units in May.

Meanwhile construction orders with the 50 big Japanese constructors surged 48.3% to 1.047 trillion yen in May. This compared to a 1.8% increase in the prior month.
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