Japan pump price hits 13-year high

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The average retail price of regular gasoline in Japan as of Monday rose ¥0.6 from a week before to ¥172.0 per liter, the highest level since Sept. 16, 2008, the industry ministry has said.

The average pump price was up for the seventh straight week, according to the data released Thursday.

Japan, the United States and European countries have announced economic sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis, possibly leading Moscow to retaliate by halting supplies of natural gas and other energy sources.

Such a development could cause spikes in prices of gasoline and other fuels, as well as crude oil, dealing a further blow to the Japanese economy, which has already been hit hard by the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, analysts said.

Russia is the world’s biggest exporter of natural gas and ranks second in crude oil exports. Japan depends on Russia for 8% of its liquefied natural gas imports and 4% of its crude oil imports.

Under a new subsidy program, the Japanese government is providing domestic oil wholesalers with ¥5 per liter to help slow the pace of rise in gasoline prices. But the government faces increasing difficulties curbing the pump price at its target level of around ¥170 per liter.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said that the government will consider measures to curb gasoline prices without ruling out any options, in order to minimize the impacts on livelihoods and economic activities. But it remains to be seen if effective measures will be hammered out.

Toshihiro Nagahama of Dai-ichi Life Research Institute Inc. said that the financial burden on households in Japan in 2022 would increase ¥26,000 from the previous year if crude oil futures continue moving around $100 per barrel.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange on Thursday, key West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures briefly topped $100 for the first time since July 2014, in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that started the same day.