Japan's Economy Slips: Recession Looms

World | February 16, 2024, Friday // 12:40
Bulgaria: Japan's Economy Slips: Recession Looms @Pixabay

Japan's economy has unexpectedly contracted, leading the country to slip from its position as the world's third-largest economy to the fourth spot, now behind Germany.

The announcement came after the annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate plummeted to 0.4% in the final quarter of 2023, according to government data released on Thursday. This decline follows a 3.3% annual drop reported in the previous quarter, pushing Japan into a recession, defined as two consecutive quarters of economic contraction.

Economists were caught off guard by the sharp downturn, with forecasts predicting a 1.4% year-on-year GDP growth rate for the October to December period. Japan's fall to fourth place in dollar terms behind Germany underscores the severity of the economic downturn.

The recession was driven by a significant decline in domestic consumption across all major categories, particularly in private spending, which accounts for half of the economy. Japanese consumers faced challenges amid rising prices for essentials like food and fuel, exacerbating the economic slowdown.

"Japan heavily relies on imports for energy and food, and the weak yen has significantly contributed to the increased cost of living," explained Tokyo-based economist Neil Newman.

The yen's depreciation against the U.S. dollar, down 6.6% since the beginning of the year, has compounded the economic challenges for Japan, making it one of the worst-performing currencies among the Group of 10 industrialized nations.

Private consumption, already weak, deteriorated further in January following an earthquake in the Sea of Japan, which disrupted economic activity and prompted cautious spending among the population.

The earthquake, which struck the Noto Peninsula on January 1, resulted in widespread destruction, claiming over 200 lives and leaving more than 1,000 injured. The aftermath of the disaster further weighed on consumer sentiment and economic activity.

Despite the gloomy economic outlook, experts anticipate a gradual recovery in the coming months. Business surveys and labor market indicators suggest a more optimistic view of Japan's economic prospects than the recent GDP figures indicate.

"We expect GDP to rebound in the first quarter of 2024, driven by improvements in private consumption amid stabilized inflation and anticipated wage growth," remarked Min Joo Kang, senior economist at ING Group.

Goldman Sachs echoed this sentiment, forecasting a 1% growth rate for Japan's economy in the first quarter of 2024, signaling cautious optimism for the country's economic recovery.

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Tags: Keywords: Japan, economy, recession, GDP

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