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Japan's output, retail sales fall, signaling economic strains – Financial Post

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TOKYO — Japan’s industrial output slipped for the second straight month in November, raising the likelihood the economy will contract in the fourth quarter due to slowing demand abroad and at home.

Japan’s economy has cooled in recent months due to a prolonged hit to exports from soft global demand and a slide in consumer spending following a nationwide tax hike.

Official data showed factory output fell 0.9% in November from the previous month, a slower decline than the 1.4% fall in a Reuters forecast.

That followed a downwardly revised 4.5% decline in the previous month, the largest month-on-month slump since the government started compiling the data in comparative form in January 2013.

“The overall economy including factory output is expected to contract sharply in the current quarter,” said Yoshiki Shinke, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute.

“It is expected to rebound in January-March but the issue is how much it will recover.”

Production was pushed down by a decrease in output of production machinery and information equipment, which offset a bounce back in output of cars and car engines.

“There is still uncertainty for the economic outlook as the effects from the U.S.-China trade friction will likely remain but there are positive signals for a moderate pickup in factory output,” said Hiroaki Mutou, chief economist at Tokai Tokyo Research Institute.

Manufacturers surveyed by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry expect output to gain 2.8% in December and rise 2.5% in January, the data showed.

Separate data released on Friday showed retail sales dropped a larger-than-expected 2.1% in November as consumer sentiment stayed depressed after October’s sales tax hike.

The weak readings could pressure the government to come up with new ways to boost growth and force the central bank to maintain its stimulus program.

“Economic sentiment has worsened overall,” said Shudai Hasegawa, a shopkeeper at a store selling rice, pickles and other foods in Tokyo’s Shinagawa area.

“There are fewer people in the shopping street here from the start of the year compared to the previous year, and also after the tax hike,” he said earlier this month.

Kota Watanabe, manager of a store selling pillows and futon mattresses, said demand from older consumers over 50 has been weak this year, partly due to warm weather.

“They say they are satisfied with cheap goods. There are also people saving money for their children instead of spending it themselves.”

UNDER PRESSURE

The broader economy is likely to stay under pressure as weak business and consumer confidence and a delayed pickup in global growth hurt demand.

The government last week cut its overall view on the economy for the fourth time this year due to a downgrade in its assessment of manufacturing output.

The Bank of Japan stood pat last week though it warned risks to the recovery remained high and offered a gloomier view on output.

Japan’s government last week approved a record budget for the coming fiscal year. Part of the planned spending will help finance a $122 billion fiscal package to shore up growth.

Meanwhile, Japan’s jobless rate fell in November, while the jobs-to-applicants ratio held steady, suggesting the nation’s tightest jobs market in decades is holding up.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 2.2% in November from 2.4% in the previous month, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications data showed.

The jobs-to-applicants ratio was unchanged at 1.57 in November from the previous month, health ministry data showed. (Reporting by Daniel Leussink; Additional reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Sam Holmes and Lincoln Feast.)

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Healthy US economy failed to narrow racial gaps in 2019 – The Battlefords News-Optimist

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WASHINGTON — The solid growth that the United States enjoyed before the viral pandemic paralyzed the economy this spring failed to reduce racial disparities in Americans’ income and wealth from 2016 through 2019, according to a Federal Reserve report Monday.

Though Black and Hispanic households reported sharper gains in wealth than white households did, those increases weren’t enough to noticeably narrow the racial gaps. The typical white family possessed eight times the wealth of Black families and five times the wealth of Hispanic families in 2019, the Fed said.

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The Fed’s Survey of Consumer Finances, released every three years, analyzed incomes and wealth in 2019. The survey found that income for the typical U.S. family rose 5%, adjusted for inflation, from 2016 to 2019 to $58,600. That was weaker than the 9% income gain the typical family received from 2013 through 2016.

The survey provides a trove of information on family finances in the United States, from the percentage of households that own stock (53%) to the proportion that have a retirement account (50%).

While the report shows increases in income and wealth for lower-income and Black families, many economists worry that the pandemic has reversed those gains. Job losses this year have been concentrated among lower-income workers in the restaurant, hotel, retail and travel industries. Those workers are disproportionately non-white.

Some measures did show a narrowing of income disparities. Average income among the wealthiest one-tenth of American families fell 6%, largely because of a steep fall among the richest 1%, Federal Reserve economists said. By contrast, average incomes among the bottom 60% of families rose.

Yet average figures can be skewed by huge incomes at the very top. The Fed report noted, for example, that while average incomes for all families fell 3% from 2016 through 2019, excluding the richest 1%, average incomes rose 3.1%. Income for the richest Americans can fluctuate more sharply year to year than income for lower-income earners, Fed economists said, and likely fell because of smaller gains from stock, bond and property sales.

Economists typically look at median incomes, which reflect the midpoint of all earners, as a way to filter out the extremes. Median income among the poorest one-fifth of Americans rose 3%, while median income for the richest one-tenth increased 6%, the Fed said.

The median family income for whites grew 6%. For Black households, it was slightly better at 7%. For Hispanic families, incomes fell 1%. Median income for white families last year was $69,000, compared with $40,300 for Black families and $40,700 for Hispanics.

Poorer Americans and Black and Hispanic households did gain wealth from 2016 through 2019, mostly from an increase in home ownership and home values. But those increases came from such low levels that they didn’t much narrow overall income disparities, the Fed said.

Black households, for example, reported a 33% gain in net worth and Hispanic families 65%. Wealth in white households increased just 3%. While encouraging, median wealth for white families in 2019 was still much higher, at $188,200, compared with $24,100 for Black families and $36,200 for Hispanics.

Economic research has found that differences in inheritances are a major factor behind the racial wealth gap. A separate Fed note released Monday found that 30% of white families report receiving an inheritance — three times the corresponding proportion of Black families and four times that of Hispanic families.

The richest 1% of Americans owned one-third of the nation’s wealth in 2019, down slightly from nearly four-fifths in 2016. But wealth grew for the next-richest 9% of the population, the Fed said in another research note. So that the richest one-tenth of families owned 71% of wealth, unchanged from 2016.

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Report: Women, diversity are key to rebuilding Canada's economy – Wealth Professional

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Climbing the ladder
Women and diverse groups are also facing struggles to climb the corporate ladder to senior leadership roles.

“While we are making some progress with women on corporate Boards, reported at 25.3% of directors, the study highlights this doesn’t hold true for racialized women, reported at just 1.2% of directors,” said  Zabeen Hirji, Executive  Advisor, Future of Work, Deloitte. “White women out-numbering racialized women on corporate boards in Toronto by 12 to 1. The talent is there, it is policies and practices that need to evolve. We need to cast a wider net.”

The challenges are particularly evident in science and technology sectors (STEM).

Occupations within some of the high-growth and high-income sectors reveal the disparity of women trying to advance in STEM fields, generally filling lower-level jobs compared to their higher-level male counterparts.

However, women have made inroads into highly paid professions such as medicine and law.

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Gautam Adani debunks GDP rhetoric, says India will be 2nd largest economy by 2050 – Deccan Herald

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Billionaire Gautam Adani has debunked the narrow fixation on GDP numbers, saying fundamentals are intact and India will be the second-largest economy by 2050 and has an edge over global peers in terms of business opportunities.

Speaking at the JP Morgan India Summit – Future in Focus, the Adani Group chairman said the AatmaNirbhar Bharat programme will be a game-changer.

“I will state without any hesitation – that – in my view – over the next three decades, India is the world’s greatest business opportunity,” he said.

India’s geostrategic position and massive market size give it an edge over its global peers amid the fundamental political realignment of nations taking shape, he said adding opportunities for India are likely to accelerate on the other side of the pandemic.

“For the sake of the fans of the GDP metric, let’s look at some statistics. The global GDP in 1990 was $38 trillion. Today, 30 years later, this number is $90 trillion. Projecting for another 30 years, in 2050 the global GDP is expected to be about $170 trillion with India becoming the second-largest economy in the world,” he said.

The Indian economy shrank by a record 23.9 per cent in the April-June quarter because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown that followed. The economy is projected to contract for the first time in four decades, in the full year to March 2021.

Also read: India’s economy to experience record contraction in 2020-21: S&P

But Adani said short-term setbacks due to a global crisis cannot be used to write off the country as its fundamentals remain intact.

“The current focus on standardised GDP predictions as against truly understanding what a nation could look like over a decade has unfortunately become one of the primary elements for measuring the health of an economy. In my view, patience and long-term planning and most importantly, an alignment with the government’s business agenda are what creates the greatest value,” he said.

Speaking of challenges holding back India, Adani said that India needs $1.5 to 2 trillion of capital over the next decade but despite key structural reforms such as the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund and Credit Enhancement Fund, capital structure challenges, and lack of empowered and independent regulators remain bottlenecks to nation-building and investment opportunities.

The first generation entrepreneur, who built India’s biggest infrastructure group with interests spanning from seaports to airports and energy, coaxed the audience to look at opportunities through his ‘optimist’ lenses.

“As an entrepreneur, I am an optimist, and therefore the lenses through which I see opportunities may be different than some of yours. I recognise that the view that you cannot build a long-term future on short-term thinking, may not be in alignment with the objectives of certain priorities of the investment community,” he said.

He told the forum to stop viewing all nations through old Western growth metrics.

Also read: Moody’s projects Indian economy to contract 11.5% this fiscal

“Democracy cannot take a cookie-cutter approach and we should accept that different nations will have their own flavour of democracy and capitalism.”

Stating that the AatmaNirbhar Bharat or self-reliant India programme will be a game-changer, he said India building a crumbling supply chain infrastructure that stood exposed to Covid-19, as also a strong head start in digital transformation will help re-build the economy. 

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