• ECONOMY

Consumer inflation in Tokyo rises in Nov. at fastest pace in 40 years

Reuters file photo
A shop employee holds a placard to attract customers in Tokyo in May 2018.

TOKYO (Reuters) — Core consumer prices in Japan’s capital, a leading indicator of nationwide trends, rose at their fastest annual pace in 40 years in November and exceeded the central bank’s 2% target for a sixth straight month, signaling broadening inflationary pressure.

The increase, driven mostly by food and fuel bills but spreading to a broader range of goods, cast doubt on the view of the Bank of Japan that recent cost-push inflation will prove transitory, some analysts said.

The Tokyo core consumer price index (CPI), which excludes fresh food but includes fuel, was 3.6% higher in November than a year earlier, government data showed on Friday. The rise exceeded a median market forecast of 3.5% and the 3.4% increase seen in October.

The last time Tokyo inflation was faster was in April 1982, when the core CPI was 4.2% higher than a year before.

While the rise was driven mostly by electricity bills and food prices, companies were also charging more for durable goods as the weak yen pushed up the cost of imports, the data showed.

“Price hikes are broadening and suggests the weak yen could keep inflation elevated well into next year,” said Mari Iwashita, chief market economist at Daiwa Securities.

“Core consumer inflation may stay around the BOJ’s 2% target for much of next year, which would make it hard for the bank to keep arguing that the price rises are temporary.”

The Tokyo core-core CPI index, which excludes fuel as well as fresh food, was 2.5% higher in November than a year earlier, picking up from the 2.2% annual gain seen in October.

The BOJ has kept interest rates ultralow on the view that inflation will slow back below its target next year when the boost from fuel price gains dissipates. It has therefore remained an outlier from a wave of monetary tightening around the world aimed at combating soaring inflation.

Contrary to the experience of Western economies where wages have surged with inflation, growth in wages and services prices remain muted in Japan.

Of the components making up the Tokyo CPI data, services prices in November were up just 0.7% on a year earlier, after a 0.8% annual increase seen in October. That compared with a 7.7% spike in durable goods prices for November, which followed October’s 7.0% annual gain.