THE TAKEAWAY: Japan's household spending and jobless report came in worse than expected > Data points to continual stagnation within the Japanese economy > Japan’s policymaker’s aggressive stance towards economic growth may push the Yen down further
Japan household spending growth in December (YoY) declined for the first time in 4 months, according to data released by the country’s Ministry of Internal Affairs. The level of growth came in in worse than estimates at -0.7%. Meanwhile, Japan’s jobless rate grew slightly to 4.2% from November’s 4.1% level. Japan’s rate of unemployment has shown a steady decline since a 5-year high of 5.5% in 2009 and appears to be relatively unaffected by the decrease in household spending. The Yen, which has seen extreme deprecation over the last few months seemed unaffected by the news, continuing to fall relative to the other major currencies. Currently the USD/JPY spot rate stands at a multi-year high of 91.75 versus the dollar.
This latest batch of Japanese economic data does not seem to deviate from the state of weak growth that the country has faced over the last several years. This economic malaise is being challenged by the New Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, who has helped push through a series of monetary easing policies meant to deflate the Japanese currency and stimulate growth. These actions appear to be the underlying cause behind the Yen’s rapid depreciation, along with investor’s demand for high-interest paying currencies. Given the negative nature of the home spending and jobs report, it is unlikely Japanese policymakers will deviate from their current monetary agenda. This coupled with the current risk-on market sentiment, should keep the Yen undervalued relative to its peers into the foreseeable future.