Japan sinks into recession – but there is more to the story than the mainstream narrative would care to admit

Last week (February 15, 2024), the Japanese Cabinet Office released the latest national accounts estimates for the December-quarter 2023 – Quarterly Estimates of GDP for Oct.-Dec. 2023 (The First preliminary) – which showed that the economy had slipped into an official recession (two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth) and in the process had moved from being the third largest economy in the world to become the fourth behind the US, China and Germany. According to the media release – 2023年10~12月期四半期別GDP速報 – the quarterly growth rate was -0.1 per cent (annual -0.4 per cent). Domestic demand was weak, contributing -0.3 per cent while net exports contributed +0.2 per cent. Part of the story is related to a ‘valuation drop’ because the yen has depreciated in recent months, undermining the value of exports and increasing the value of imports. But while there is some hysteria in the ‘markets’ and the mainstream economics commentary about the result, caution is required because the data will be revised (it was only preliminary) as more data comes in and it is highly possible for the negative to become a positive. But, I also take a different perspective on this from the dominant narrative in the media as you will see if you read on.

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