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REPEAT: MNI DATA: Japan Dec Data Show Solid Q4 GDP Spending

Repeats Story Initially Transmitted at 06:34 GMT Jan 30/01:34 EST Jan 30
By Max Sato
     TOKYO (MNI) - Japanese household spending and retail sales for December
released Tuesday indicate solid consumption in preliminary October-December GDP
data due out on Feb. 14.
     Real average household spending posted the first year-on-year drop in two
months in December, down 0.1%, after rising 1.7% in November and being unchanged
in October, data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications
showed.
     But a ministry official noted the three-month moving average of retail
sales in the October-December quarter rose 0.6% for the third straight
year-on-year rise after rising 0.4% in September-November.
     --HOUSEHOLD SPENDING PICKING UP
     "There is no change to the recent trend," he said.
     The ministry maintained its assessment that "consumption has been picking
up." It last revised up its view in June 2017.
     The decrease in December household spending was led by what officials see
as temporary factors -- heavy snow in northern regions hampered home maintenance
and repairs while purchases of automobiles dipped after recent increases.
Consumers also trimmed spending on fresh vegetables and fish as their prices
remained high.
     The core spending index, which excludes housing, motor vehicles and other
volatile items (similar to private consumption patterns in GDP data), fell 1.2%
in December compared with the previous month, on a seasonally adjusted basis. It
was the first month-on-month drop in two months, after a rise of 2.7% in
November and a fall of 1.8% in October.
     --RETAIL SALES STRONG
     Among other key indicators, retail sales surged 3.6% in December, posting
the second straight year-on-year rise after rising 2.1% in November and falling
0.2% in October, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said. Retail sales
had gained for 11 months through September, the longest stretch in seven years.
     The December rise was led by higher fuel prices as well as solid demand for
automobiles and consumer electronics.
     On the month, retail sales rose 0.9% on a seasonally adjusted basis in
December, the second consecutive rise after +1.8% in November, leading to a 1.4%
quarter-on-quarter increase in October-December after -0.1% in July-September.
     The METI upgraded its view that retail sales are "picking up moderately."
Until last month, it said retail sales showed signs of a pickup.
     In the third quarter, real gross domestic product grew a sharp 0.6% on
quarter, or an annualized +2.5% as a rebound in net exports offset a slump in
consumer spending caused by bad weather.
     Private consumption, which accounts for about 60% of GDP, fell 0.5% on
quarter in Q3, the first drop in five quarters after+0.9% in Q2. The decrease in
spending was seen in automobiles, food and beverages and mobile phones.
--MNI Tokyo Bureau; tel: +81 90-4670-5309; email: max.sato@marketnews.com

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