Japanese retail sales unexpectedly fell in December for a second month, adding to concern that a tax increase will restrain consumer spending and growth in the world's second-largest economy. \nSales fell 0.5 percent, seasonally adjusted, from November, led by food and sporting goods, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said today in Tokyo. The decline compared with the median 0.4 percent increase forecast by six economists in a survey. \nConsumers may further cut spending at retailers including Aeon Co because they are bracing to pay as much as 145,000 yen (US$1,404) in extra tax in the year starting April 1 under new rules. A drop in consumer spending, which makes up half the economy, might curb growth at a time when exports are flagging. \n"The major issue for consumption in 2005 will be the impact of tax changes," said Glenn Maguire, chief economist for Asia at Societe Generale Australia Ltd in Sydney. \n"It does have the potential to erode income growth and therefore depress consumption." \nFrom a year earlier, retail sales fell 0.7 percent in December, today's report showed. Sales declined 0.6 percent in all of last year. \nTax breaks "retail sales are largely flat," said Naomichi Miyazawa, a trade ministry official. "Last year our assessment was they are showing signs of recovery." \nJapan in April will halve income tax breaks worth as much as 290,000 yen, in place since 1999, to help trim the largest public debt in the world. The Ministry of Finance estimates debt will balloon to 151 percent of GDP by the end of next fiscal year. The lower tax rate is provided through a rebate paid every January. \n"If you consider the knock-on effect, such as on employment, the tax increase could as much as halve Japan's potential 1 to 1.5 percent growth rate," Naoki Iizuka, chief economist at Dai-Ichi Life Research Institute, said before the release. \nGrowth in consumer spending slowed for a second straight quarter in the three months ended Sept. 30, expanding 0.9 percent. \nConsumer confidence in December fell for the first time in three months as households grew more pessimistic about employment and wages, which have risen just six times in 48 months. \nExports Retails shares declined. The Topix Retail Trade Index fell 0.5 percent to 691.750 at 2:23pm in Tokyo, led by clothing store Fast Retailing Co and Aeon. The index has gained 47 percent in the past year.
‘HERO OF THE ERA’: President Tsai Ing-wen expressed deep sadness at Lee’s passing, and told the government to assist his family with all their needs Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) passed away at 7:24pm yesterday at Taipei Veterans General Hospital. He was 97 years old. The hospital stated the cause of death as septic shock and multiple organ failure. Lee had been hospitalized there since February, when he choked on a mouthful of milk at home. He was later diagnosed with pulmonary infiltrates and aspiration pneumonia. The hospital said that Lee had been treated with antibiotics, but that his health had not improved, as his advanced age and diabetes had inhibited his immune system and led to recurring infections. During his hospitalization, Lee underwent daily kidney dialysis, which removed
‘WEAK POSITIVE’: The man arrived in Taiwan in May and was quarantined for two weeks, Chen Shih-chung said, adding that he might be infected a long time ago The government is considering tightening mask-wearing rules again in light of a potential domestic COVID-19 infection, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said yesterday. The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) confirmed seven new COVID-19 cases, six of which are imported. The other case involves a Belgian engineer who entered Taiwan on May 3 and remained in quarantine until May 17, said Chen, who heads the CECC. Although the source of infection has yet to be identified, the case could end the nation’s record of not having any domestic cases in the previous 110 days. The Belgian, in his 20s, is a technician
RECEIVING TREATMENT: President Tsai Ing-wen, Vice President William Lai and Premier Su Tseng-chang visited former president Lee Teng-hui yesterday morning Taipei Veterans General Hospital yesterday rebutted speculation that former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) had died a day earlier, saying that he was weak, but receiving treatment. The hospital said the 97-year-old Lee was not in good condition and needed ongoing care, adding that if there are any changes in his condition, it would make those public. The comments came after rumors emerged online on Tuesday that Lee had died after being hospitalized since early February. Soon after the unsubstantiated rumors emerged, reporters started flocking to the hospital seeking confirmation. Lee was admitted to Taipei Veterans General Hospital on Feb. 8 after choking while drinking
THAI CASE UPDATE: Twenty-nine close contacts of the worker have been tested with two types of tests, including 18 dorm mates, with 28 negative results so far Five imported cases of COVID-19, four from the Philippines and one from Hong Kong, were reported yesterday, bringing the total confirmed cases in Taiwan to 467, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday. The four returning from the Philippines were on the same flight, and the local health department has identified 15 people who had direct contact with them — including 10 passengers in the two rows in front or behind them, who have been put under 14-day home isolation, and five crew members, who will practice 14-day self-health management, said Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang