Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Japanese Economy Crashes... Hard

Can't wait to hear how this awful release contained some green shoots. My guess is "this marks a bottom", but don't count out "imports were down". Bloomberg details:

Japan’s economy shrank at a record 15.2 percent annual pace last quarter as exports collapsed and consumers and businesses cut spending.

The contraction followed a revised fourth-quarter drop of 14.4 percent, the Cabinet Office said today in Tokyo. Gross domestic product fell 3.5 percent in the year ended March 31, the most since records began in 1955, confirming that the recession is Japan’s worst in the postwar era.

Exports plunged an unprecedented 26 percent last quarter, forcing companies from Toyota Motor Corp. to Hitachi Ltd. to cut production, workers and wages. Stocks have gained 32 percent since reaching 26-year low in March on speculation worldwide interest-rate reductions and spending by governments will halt the slide in the world’s second-largest economy.
Two areas of "growth" were imports (or the lack thereof - i.e. addition by less subtraction) and government consumption (well... sorta - it's that small light blue speck).

My overall take... whenever exports detract 10% and 15%, in back to back quarters, from an "export nation", things are worrisome.

Update: The Financial Times went with Green Shoot #1 (hat tip Naked Capitalism):
However, with government spending growing, inventories falling and exports expected to stabilise after falling a record 26 per cent between January and March, many analysts believe that the worst is over and the economy could already have returned to growth in the current quarter.

Drastic production cuts by Japanese manufacturers have finally succeeded in outpacing the collapse in demand, Wednesday’s data showed, with destocking of inventories contributing a negative 0.3 percentage points to GDP growth in the first quarter.

While such inventory reduction made the headline GDP figure look even worse, it means that companies are making progress in clearing their decks and should soon be able to increase production to meet actual demand.
Source: esri.cao.go.jp


  1. About FT comment: That's what Japanese are saying themselves. Since the data is so bad (but less bad than expected), it's all up from here. Not surprising. UK is the birthplace of John Maynard Keynes, and Japan adores anything foreign.

  2. Is there any way to discover what caused the extraordinary increase in imports, in an otherwise collapsing situation?

    Friar Hilarius

  3. it's not an increase in imports. it's a decrease in imports. net exports are an addition to GDP.

    net exports = exports - imports

    hence my "addition by less subtraction" comment

  4. 5.20.09
    The NBC pundits are dead wrong again. This is not the bottom of the recession. Its not the beginning of a true recovery. Its only a brief period of optimism or the beginning of that short and shallow revival. There will be some positive signs over the next year or so amoung the negative. But they will not lead to a true recovery. Our leaders may claim to end the recession in 2010. If that claim is made, it will be based only on that short and shallow (printed) revival. It absolutely will not last. I stand by my predictions made earlier this year. Obama's efforts are revolutionary but they are too little too late. He will have no choice but to acknowledge a severe US depression by the end of his first term or shortly thereafter. Every major economy in the world will be in depression by 2015.

    The NBC pundits (Chatzky and Wong) are bound and determined (paid) to plug their coorporate sponsors and perpetuate the 'multiple credit card' lifestyle. Their claim is that you need more than one to build reasonable credit, finance a home, and be relatively secure financially. THAT IS ANOTHER FLAT-OUT LIE. The industry is simply too corrupt and predatory to deal with. It has been for at least 20 years. The use of 'multiple credit cards' is simply too risky, addictive, complicated (check that fine print), and ultimately expensive. In the vast, overwhelming majority of cases, the 'multiple credit card' user has ended up further in debt year after year after year. Their credit was built to some extent on a temporary basis and their ability to repay loans was diminished gradually right along with their bottom line. They ended up paying as much or more in finance charges as they did on principal. That is OBSCENE. Now, their net worth is way down. Their ability to get out of debt f#$&@#. That 'credit' didn't get them anything but F#$#@#. Still, those NBC pundits (liars) have the nerve to perpetuate that 'multiple credit card' lifestyle as if it were ever legit or necessary to begin with. It wasn't. Until two years ago, one could have built reasonable credit with a stable income, a checking account, a savings account, one secured credit card, one loan for a used car, one loan for a new car, and a reasonable downpayment. Until recently, that was enough credit to get a first home loan. Now, the economic boom is OVER. The majority are F#$&@#. Its only going to get worse. A LOT WORSE. The window for ordinary (decent) people to stake their rightful claim is closing fast. They better get out of debt soon and well prepared for the comming US/global depression. It will be catastrophic. Under these circumstances, it is downright reckless and irresponsible to promote more use of credit cards. Only a calculated PIG with an ulterior motive would have the nerve. The 'multiple credit card' lifestyle wasn't the only cause of this economic crisis but it was a contributing factor. Another vehicle amoung many to transfer wealth from poor to rich. Which again, is the single greatest underlying cause. IT WILL BE OUR DOWNFALL.