Retail sales surge
Retail sales grew at the fastest pace in more than a year as a rebound in consumer spending propped up an economy reeling from last year’s March earthquake and a deepening export slump. Retail sales rose 2.5 percent last month from a year earlier, the trade ministry said in Tokyo yesterday, the biggest advance since August 2010 and exceeding the 2.1 percent median forecast of 17 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. From a month earlier, sales climbed 0.3 percent. Consumers are picking up some of the slack after export shipments slid the most since May last year because of a stronger yen and faltering global demand. Bank of Japan Governor Masaaki Shirakawa said this week consumer spending has been “unexpectedly robust,” citing the potential benefits of a strong yen, which makes imports cheaper, and increased demand in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami.
Honda’s production plunges
Japan’s Honda Motor Co, the country’s third-biggest automaker, suffered a 20 percent plunge in its global production last year, it said yesterday. Honda made 2.91 million vehicles not including motorbikes last year, it said, down 20.2 percent as auto manufacturers struggled with natural disasters, a rising yen and the European economic slowdown. The figures came as Japan’s major car firms announced their annual production for last year. Toyota Motor Corp, which had already confirmed earlier this week it had lost its position as the world’s biggest automaker, said it produced 7.86 million vehicles, down 8.2 percent. Nissan Motor Co, 44.3 percent owned by Renault SA, was the only leading Japanese automaker to increase annual global production. It produced 4.63 million units, up 14.3 percent from a year ago, while global sales hit a record 4.67 million vehicles, it said.
Food-price index falls
The food-price index fell for a fourth straight week as the cost of onions, vegetables and wheat declined. A gauge measuring wholesale prices of agricultural products dropped 1.03 percent in the week ended on Jan. 14 from a year earlier, the commerce ministry said in a statement in New Delhi yesterday. It declined 0.4 percent the previous week. India cut the amount lenders must set aside as reserves for the first time since 2009 on Tuesday, joining nations from Brazil to Thailand in easing monetary policy as Europe’s debt crisis hurts global growth. Headline inflation moderated to a two-year low of 7.47 percent last month, increasing the central bank’s scope to shield economic expansion. The price of vegetables tumbled 47 percent in the week ended on Jan. 14 from a year earlier, yesterday’s report showed.
Jetstar Japan eyes future
Jetstar Japan Co, the budget carrier set to begin flights this year, said it might grow to 100 planes by the end of the decade, helped by fares about 50 percent cheaper than full-service airlines. “I’m quite bullish that this is going to be possible,” CEO Miyuki Suzuki said in an interview in Tokyo on Thursday. The carrier, part-owned by Japan Airlines Co and Qantas Airways Ltd, is ahead of schedule in its startup plans, she said, without giving a date for the first flight. Jetstar, one of three Japanese budget carriers preparing to start services this year, expects lower fares will lure passengers and spur new travel demand, Suzuki said. Discount carriers will about triple their share of Japanese air travel to 35 percent by 2020, she said.