Economy ‘on knife-edge’ as Japan faces deflation fear


Leo Lewis
Times Online
December 27, 2008

Japan’s economy — the second-largest in the world and a barometer of global consumer demand — was described yesterday as being “on a knife-edge” amid fears that it might plum- met into deflation within months.

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The warnings, which come from senior private sector economists and from the Japanese Government, follow a Boxing Day release of dismal industrial, consumer and employment data.

Within hours of passing a record 88 trillion yen (£660 billion) budget, senior government sources told The Times that Japan would “inevitably” be forced to adopt new measures to halt the meltdown. The country’s spiraling economic crisis arises primarily from the sudden halt in American consumption and the acute slowdown in the flow of components and goods throughout Asia. The strong yen has savaged the competitiveness of Japanese goods such as cars and electronics at a critical moment.

A record-breaking fall in industrial output figures for November showed that the country’s huge manufacturing economy is collapsing far more rapidly and painfully than even the bleakest market forecasts believed possible. The 8.1 per cent month-on-month slide — a dramatic collapse from the 3.1 per cent decline logged in October, stunned many economists. Richard Jerram, of Macquarie Securities, said that the pace of collapse had almost gone beyond the point of sensible analysis.

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