Japan central bank sees moderate impact from global commodity inflation

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FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: A security guard walks past in front of the Bank of Japan headquarters in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: A security guard walks past in front of the Bank of Japan headquarters in Tokyo, Japan January 23, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato

July 19, 2021

By Leika Kihara

TOKYO (Reuters) – Rising global commodity prices are likely to push up Japan’s consumer inflation, though only for a temporary period, and to a smaller extent than in Western economies, the Bank of Japan said on Monday.

As the inflation is driven by robust overseas demand, Japan’s corporate profits will see the hit from higher import costs more than offset by the benefits of solid exports, the central bank said.

“The underlying increase in commodity prices will worsen Japan’s terms of trade for the time being,” the BOJ said in a report. “But that will be outweighed by positives, such as rising exports and capital expenditure.”

Japan’s wholesale prices rose 5.1% in May from a year earlier, their fastest pace since 2008, fuelled by rising commodity costs.

But core consumer prices, the BOJ’s preferred measure of inflation, rose just 0.1% in May as weak domestic demand kept firms from passing on the higher costs.

That is much weaker than a May spike of 3.4% in the U.S. Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge, the core personal consumption expenditures price index.

Even when demand is strong, Japanese firms tend to be slower to pass on costs than Western counterparts, which will keep any rise in consumer inflation moderate, the BOJ said.

“Looking at past experiences, any rise in consumer inflation driven solely by raw material costs will not broaden, and end up being transitory,” it said.

How such costs translate into higher consumer inflation will depend on the strength of domestic demand, including consumption, and how that in turn affected retailers’ price-setting behaviour, the bank added.

In fresh quarterly projections released on Friday, the BOJ revised up its core consumer inflation forecast to 0.6% from 0.1%, largely due to rising fuel costs.

The BOJ said consumer inflation is likely to accelerate toward year-end because of higher energy costs, and the base effect of a government discount campaign that pushed down travel fees late last year.

(Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)