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Asia Economy Last Updated: Jan 31, 2014 - 6:58 AM

Japan's consumer prices up in 2013 - - first time in 5 years; Jobs/ industrial production improves
By Finfacts Team
Jan 31, 2014 - 6:53 AM

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Japan's consumer prices rose 0.4% in 2013 from a year earlier for the first increase in 5 years, due mainly to a rise in energy prices, the government said Friday, signalling that the aggressive monetary policies of the Bank of Japan to beat prolonged deflation, are providing some evidence of positive results. There was also positive news on jobs and industrial production.

The closely tracked core consumer price index, which excludes volatile fresh-food costs, climbed 1.3% in December from a year earlier - - in the seventh straight month of rises. For all of 2013, the index was up 0.4%, the first annual rise in five years.

The Bank of Japan has targeted a 2.0% inflation rate as the level required to overcome deflationary pressures.

The employment situation also improved, as the nation's jobless rate dropped to an average 4.0% in 2013 from the previous year's 4.3%, marking a third straight year of decline, while the country's job availability improved for the fourth straight year.

The ratio of available jobs to applicants also rose to 1.03, meaning 103 jobs were on offer for every 100 job seekers. That's the first time that there has been a surplus of available jobs since October of 2007.

The official unemployment rate understates the true jobless situation.

Data on Japan's industrial production shows an expansion of 1.1% in December from the previous month for the first rise in two months, bolstered partly by production of industrial robots. For the 12 months through December, the index shed 0.8% from the previous year.

Meanwhile, manufacturing PMI data for January, shows that business conditions at Japanese manufacturers improved at the sharpest pace in nearly eight years in January. Record highs in the growth of production and quantity of purchases reflected the sharp expansions seen in new orders over the past few months.

The headline seasonally adjusted Markit/JMMA purchasing managers’ index (PMI) - - a composite indicator designed to provide a single-figure snapshot of the performance of the manufacturing economy  - - posted at 56.6 in January, up from 55.2 in December. This was the highest reading posted by the PMI since February 2006, signalling a sharp improvement in operating conditions in the Japanese manufacturing sector.

Markit says output expanded at the sharpest pace in over 12 years of data collection in January, building on the sharp expansions registered in the final quarter of 2013. This was the eleventh successive month of expansion in production. Some respondents attributed the latest increase to fuller order books, in turn a result of demand being brought forward ahead of April’s sales tax rise.

New orders at Japanese manufacturers also rose for the eleventh consecutive month in January and at the sharpest pace since February 2006. In contrast, the latest data indicated that the recent growth momentum registered in new export orders was lost in January, as the pace of expansion eased to the weakest in the current five-month sequence of growth.

Quantity of purchases expanded for the eleventh successive month in January, and at a record pace. Anecdotal evidence suggested that increased volumes of orders had contributed to the latest rise in purchasing activity.

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