Japan forecasts real GDP growth of 2.5 per cent in 2013/14

PHOTO: Japan forecasts real GDP growth of 2.5 per cent in 2013/14

TOKYO - Japan's economy will likely grow 2.5 per cent in 2013/14 fiscal year starting in April, the government said on Monday, based on expectations that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ambitious fiscal and monetary policies will boost domestic demand and a rebounding overseas economy will help exports.

The Cabinet Office's economic forecast, issued annually and revised every summer, will serve as a basis for deciding the budget, a draft of which is likely to be approved by the cabinet this week.

"Overseas risk factors have been easing. Of course, downside risks are not completely gone," Economics Minister Akira Amari told a press conference after a cabinet meeting in Tokyo.

"Japan is compiling its growth strategy following the emergency stimulus steps... I think Japan will be able to achieve the growth forecast if the strategy is implemented rapidly."

The government's projection for real gross domestic product is roughly in line with the Bank of Japan's estimate issued last week, but it is stronger than the median estimate for 1.8 per cent growth in a Reuters poll.

"Exports are expected to grow as the global economy is likely to recover moderately, which would help corporate activity. The government measures will also help capital spending," an official from the Cabinet Office said.

"Also, employment is likely to increase, helped by the economic measures, which would boost private consumption." The new forecast is also stronger than the previous projection of 1.7 per cent growth made last summer.

Abe led his Liberal Democratic Party to a landslide victory in December and his campaign for aggressive budget and monetary stimulus has pushed the yen to a 2 1/2 year low against the dollar and sparked a stock market rally on hopes that a weaker currency will boost exports.

Earlier this month, the government approved a 10.3 trillion yen(S$114.4 billion) economic stimulus plan, the biggest spending boost since the global financial crisis.

The government also said Japan was expected to achieve nominal gross domestic product growth of 2.7 per cent in fiscal 2013, exceeding real GDP growth for the first time in 16 years.

There will be a rush of consumer spending before a planned sales tax hike in April 2014, which will boost growth by 0.4 percentage point for the next fiscal year, it said.

For the current year to March, the government cut its growth forecast for real GDP to 1.0 per cent from 2.2 per cent.

The consumer price index will rise 0.5 per cent in the next fiscal year, rising for the first time in five years, after an anticipated 0.1 per cent fall this fiscal year, according to the estimate, indicating there is still a long way to go to achieve the Bank of Japan's new inflation goal of 2 per cent.

Under relentless pressure from Abe, the BOJ doubled its inflation goal and pledged open-ended asset buying from 2014.

The GDP deflator, a broad measure of price trends, will likely rise 0.2 per cent in fiscal 2013 after declining 0.6 per cent this fiscal year, the government estimated.

That would mark the first time since fiscal 1997 that the GDP deflator has risen, the government said.

It also noted that Japan needs to pay heed to risks such as Europe's sovereign debt, uncertainty in the overseas economy, foreign exchange movements and power supply restraints.