Japan CPI inflation falls as expected in Dec, points to ultra-dovish BOJ

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Investing.com– Japanese consumer inflation eased as expected in December, furthering bets that the Bank of Japan will keep its ultra-dovish policy largely unchanged when it meets in the coming week.

(CPI) inflation, which disregards volatile fresh food prices, rose an annualized 2.3% as expected in December, data from the Statistics Bureau showed on Friday. The reading fell further from the 2.5% seen in November.

The core CPI index was also at its lowest level since July 2022.

A core reading that disregards both fresh food and energy fell to 3.7% from 3.8% in the prior month. The reading is closely watched by the BOJ as an indicator of underlying inflation, and was now well below a 40-year peak hit in 2023.

Headline fell to 2.6% in December from 2.8% in the prior month.

Softer fuel and utility prices were the key drivers of easing inflation, while food prices continued to grow at a rapid pace. Utility prices were also brought lower by government subsidies on electricity and gas, which were introduced in 2023 to help curb inflation.

Friday’s reading gave further credence to expectations that the BOJ will keep its ultra-dovish policy unchanged when it . Easing inflationary pressures and recent signs of sluggish wage growth give the BOJ little urgency to begin tightening policy.

The central bank is also expected to hold its ultra-dovish course amid uncertainty after a devastating earthquake at the beginning of the year. Rebuilding and stimulus measures in the wake of the disaster are widely expected to offset any monetary tightening by the central bank.

The BOJ is set to decide on monetary policy on Tuesday.

Still, increased fiscal stimulus may push up Japanese inflation in the near-term. Renewed weakness in the through January may also elicit a stronger inflation reading for the month.

The yen traded sideways after Friday’s inflation reading, but was close to its weakest levels since early-December.

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