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Japan's output, job availability jump but COVID curbs to slow growth

Japan's factory output rebounded in June and job availability rose to the highest level in nearly a year, data showed, a sign robust overseas demand was offsetting the drag to consumption from the pandemic.

Japan's output, job availability jump but COVID curbs to slow growth

Employees wearing protective face masks and face guards work on the automobile assembly line during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the factory of Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corp. in Kawasaki

TOKYO -Japan's factory output jumped in June and job availability rose to the highest level in nearly a year, data showed, a sign robust overseas demand was offsetting the drag to consumption from the coronavirus pandemic.

But a spike in domestic infections to new records and a lingering global chip shortage add to woes for the world's third largest-economy, dashing policymakers' hopes for a strong rebound in July-September growth, analysts say.

The government is set to expand state of emergency curbs to more parts of the country through Aug. 31, overshadowing the Olympic Games held in capital city Tokyo.

"With the resurgence in infections, initial hopes of a clear economic rebound in July-September have faded," said Yoshiki Shinke, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute.

"The economy will probably stagnate in the current quarter with any recovery pushed back until October-December onward."

Industrial output rose 6.2per cent in June after a sharp 6.5per cent drop in May, data showed on Friday, marking the highest growth since July last year and recovering to pre-pandemic levels.

The increase, which exceeded a median market forecast for a 5.0per cent gain, was driven mainly by a 22.6per cent surge in auto production as manufacturers sought to make up for the slump in May.

Manufacturers surveyed by the government expect output to fall 1.1per cent in July but rise 1.7per cent in August, a sign robust global demand for machinery and cars will underpin Japan's recovery.

Japan's job market remains tight. An index gauging job availability rose to 1.13 from 1.09 in May, exceeding market estimates for a 1.10 reading and marking the highest level since May last year. The jobless rate fell to 2.9per cent from 3.0per cent in May.

Underscoring the fragile state of consumption, however, retail sales were up just 0.1per cent in June from a year earlier, compared with a median market forecast for a 0.2per cent gain.

Some analysts are marking down their growth estimates for the current quarter, reflecting the planned expanded state of emergency curbs.

SMBC Nikko Securities said it now expects Japan's economy to grow an annualised 1.5per cent in July-September, well below its previous forecast of a 7.8per cent expansion.

Former Bank of Japan policymaker Takahide Kiuchi also expects the economy to grow around 2-3per cent in the current quarter instead of the initially projected double-digit expansion.

With the expected expansion, the state of emergency curbs could lead to a total loss of 2.19 trillion yen (US$20 billion) for Japan's economy, offsetting an estimated 1.67 trillion yen benefit from the Olympic Games, said Kiuchi, who is currently executive economist at Nomura Research Institute.

"The economic boost from the Games will be completely wiped out from the expanded curbs," he said in a research note.

Japan's economy shrank an annualised 3.9per cent in January-March and likely barely grew in the second quarter, as the pandemic took a toll on service spending.

(US$1 = 109.4900 yen)

(Reporting by Kaori Kaneko and Leika Kihara; Additional reporting by Kentaro Sugiyama and Takaya Yamaguchi; Editing by Sam Holmes)

Source: Reuters

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