May 7, 2020 7:08 pm
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 Shoppers wearing protective face masks, following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease, are seen at a supermarket in Tokyo, Japan
Shoppers wearing protective face masks, following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), are seen at a supermarket in Tokyo, Japan March 27, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato

May 7, 2020

By Leika Kihara

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s household spending fell 6.0% in March from a year earlier, government data showed on Friday, underscoring the deepening pain the coronavirus pandemic is inflicting on the world’s third-largest economy.

The weak reading will keep policymakers under pressure to ramp up fiscal and monetary support for an economy on the cusp of deep recession, as the pandemic forces consumers to stay home and businesses remain shut.

The drop in household spending was slightly smaller than a median market forecast for a 6.7% decline and followed a 0.3% slide in February.

The data will affect preliminary first-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) data due on May 18.

A Reuters poll taken last week showed analysts expect the economy to have shrunk an annualised 4.5% in January-March, before plunging 22% in the current quarter.

The health crisis hit an economy that already suffered a contraction in the final quarter of last year due to the hit on consumption from a sales tax hike put in place in October.

With the number of infections in Japan exceeding 15,000, the government extended a state of emergency on Monday through to the end of the month, pressuring companies to shut down factories and stores longer than expected.

(Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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