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Monday, February 16, 2009

[roeoz] Japan in Depression

Posted by AccGURU


Japan plunges into depression
Peter Martin
February 17, 2009
AUSTRALIA'S biggest and most reliable customer, Japan, has plunged
into depression, with federal Treasurer Wayne Swan now warning of the
worst global downturn "in our lifetimes".

Japan's economy shrank an annualised 12.7 per cent over the December
quarter, its worst result since the 1974 oil shock.

Japan is by far Australia's biggest export customer, accounting for
one in every five container ships that leave Australia's shores.

The new figures put it among the worst-hit casualties of the global

The annualised contraction of 12.7 per cent, or 3.3 per cent in
quarterly terms, dwarfs those of the United States and Europe and is
much worse than anything that happened to Japan during its so-
called "lost decade" of recession in the 1990s.

The collapse in growth fits the profile of a depression — a deep
recession in which annual GDP falls by 10 per cent or more.

Australia's other big customer, China, has had its growth rate almost
halved from 13 to 6.8 per cent.

"These figures reveal just how serious the global recession is
becoming," Mr Swan said. "They follow on the heels of the worst
contraction in the euro area since records began in 1980.

"The last three months of 2008 are likely to have seen the sharpest
synchronised downturn in the global economy in our lifetimes.

"It's is a sobering backdrop for Australia as we seek to do
everything we can to cushion the impact the global downturn will have
here," Mr Swan said.

A 14 per cent collapse in exports in the December quarter led Japan's

Toyota, Sony and Hitachi are forecasting losses and have begun firing
thousands of workers, heightening the risk that a slump in domestic
spending will deepen the downturn.

"At one time, it looked like Japan had escaped the brunt of the
financial crisis," said Hideo Kumano, chief economist for the Dai-
Ichi Life Research Institute. "This shows how feeble Japan's economic
fundamentals were in the first place."

Access Economics director Chris Richardson said Japan's plight showed
there was "no place for Australia to hide".

"It is true that Japan's statistics are more dodgy and more volatile
than those of other large nations, but this fits what know about the
reach of the crisis," Mr Richardson said. "It is very big and very

"It is impossible for Australia to avoid a recession; perhaps not
absolutely impossible, but it is incredibly hard for Australia to
hold against the tide, and the tide pulling us down is getting
stronger every day.

"This is confirmation of what's facing us," said ANZ chief economist
Saul Eslake. "Japan is a more important and more diversified export
market than China.

"Australian GDP per person is already running backwards. What happens
over the next few months will determine how bad things get."

The impact of the downturn in Asia was felt in Albury yesterday when
400 workers at cars parts company Drivetrain Systems International
were stood down without pay.

The business was hit hard by last month's collapse of South Korean
vehicle manufacturer SsangYong, a major customer.

Finance figures released on Monday suggest that Australians resumed
borrowing in December in the wake of a further interest rate cut and
the Government's $8.7 billion fiscal stimulus hand-outs.

New lending commitments climbed 3.5 per cent. All forms of personal
lending increased, including a solid 24 per cent lift in loans to buy
new cars. But the bulk of the new loans were for refinancing or for
debt consolidation. Lending remains 27 per cent down over the year.