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Japan Slips into Recession, Loses Position as World's Third Largest Economy

Japan Slips into Recession, Loses Position as World's Third Largest Economy

Feb 27, 2024

Japan Slips into Recession, Loses Position as World's Third Largest Economy

In a sobering turn of events, Japan has succumbed to economic contraction, marking its entry into a recession and forfeiting its status as the world's third-largest economy. This development sends a ripple effect across global markets, signaling a troubling trend that has seen the United Kingdom, and soon Germany and the rest of Europe, grappling with similar economic downturns. China's deep recession adds to the alarm, while the United States appears to navigate these tumultuous waters with significant government spending under President Joe Biden.

Reporting from the Japan Cabinet Office last week highlighted a disconcerting shrinkage in Japan's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 0.4% in the final quarter of 2023, a stark deviation from the anticipated 1.4% growth. This follows a 3.3% contraction in the prior quarter, effectively meeting the long-standing criterion for a recession: two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth. This definition, however, was controversially set aside in the U.S. during the 2022 midterms, in what some have criticized as a politically motivated maneuver.

The causes of Japan's economic woes are multifaceted. Domestic demand and consumer spending have shown weakness, with exports offering the only silver lining, buoyed by the significantly depreciated yen. Private consumption, constituting half of Japan's economy, has seen a near 1% drop as consumers face surging prices for essentials like food and fuel—direct fallout from the yen's depreciation.

Compounding the issue, Japanese wages have not kept pace with inflation, leading to a real income decline and dampened consumer activity. Analysts point to the challenges facing Japan's central bank, which is caught in a bind. Attempts to prop up the yen through interest rate hikes are hindered by the fragile GDP figures. With interest rates lingering around zero percent, Japan becomes an unattractive prospect for investors, who can instead capitalize on U.S. debt offerings with a 5% return, further pressuring the yen.

The currency's weakness is particularly punishing for the Japanese populace, who rely heavily on imports for their food and energy needs. A yen valued at 150 to the dollar, akin to rates unseen since the 1980s, could precipitate price increases of up to 30% for these essentials. Importers, in hopes of a monetary policy miracle from the Bank of Japan, have so far refrained from passing these costs on to consumers.

Looking at the bigger picture, the global economy teeters on the brink of a widespread recession. The deindustrialization of Germany and Europe, China's successive crises, the UK's recession, and negligible growth in Australia and Canada paint a grim scenario. With inflation resurging in Europe and accelerating in the U.S., echoes of the 1970s' stagflation era resonate, raising concerns over the long-term impact of government spending in response to the COVID pandemic.

The international community watches with bated breath as these financial dynamics unfold, with the hope that the global economy can stave off a full-blown recession.


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