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.
ESPIONAGE CHARGE: A TAO spokesperson said that the rights of Shih Cheng-ping were ‘fully safeguarded’ during the hearing, which handed him four years in prison China sentenced Shih Cheng-ping (施正屏), a former National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) professor, to four years in jail for espionage, officials said yesterday. The ruling came a month after Shih made a televised “confession” on state media. Shih, who is also a former chief economist for Chinese conglomerate Huaxia Group (華夏集團), was found guilty by a Chinese court on Tuesday, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) told a news briefing. Shih — who vanished after traveling to China in August 2018 — was among Taiwanese who China Central Television (CCTV) last month showed confessing to spying. CCTV often broadcasts suspects admitting to crimes, even
TIMELINE QUESTIONS: Chen Shih-chung said: ‘If anyone could assure us that we could get the shots in the first quarter of next year, we could set off firecrackers’ Taiwan has secured nearly 15 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday, as it reported five new imported infections among travelers from Indonesia and the Philippines. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that Taiwan on Monday signed a procurement contract with a COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer and paid a deposit to secure 10 million doses. It was the first contract finalized with a manufacturer and negotiations are under way with three other vaccine makers, Chen said. With the more than 4.6 million doses that can be obtained through the COVAX platform —
VIGILANCE: From tomorrow all arrivals must provide the result of a PCR test issued within three days of boarding, and the CECC asked people to report anyone who has faked their result The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) expects an increase in the number of returning travelers in the coming days, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said yesterday, adding that the varying qualities of COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test reports from other countries is a big concern. Chen, who heads the center, was speaking to the media on the sidelines of a Taiwan Foundation for Rare Disorders scholarship award ceremony in Taipei. “As the global COVID-19 situation is worsening, and with some holidays coming up, there might be an increase in the number of overseas Taiwanese returning to Taiwan,” he
SKIN, ENTRAILS: Placards also dotted the legislative chamber, with slogans such as ‘Oppose ractopamine pork — not US pork’ and ‘Much ado about nothing’ Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers yesterday pelted Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) with pig skin and entrails as he addressed the Legislative Yuan on pork imports for the first time since the KMT’s boycott began on Sept. 18. Opposition lawmakers have been demanding an apology from the government for its decision to lift its ban on the importation of US pork containing residues of the livestock drug ractopamine. After Su arrived at 10am for his 13th attempt to deliver a regular policy report, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus moved to change the agenda to accommodate the premier. The motion resulted in cries of