November 29, 2023

Bank of Japan Reports Broad Downturn Since Quake

The bank’s governor, Masaaki Shirakawa, however, stuck to his view that while Japan’s economy will face strong downward pressure over the near-term, it will eventually resume its recovery as exports rebound and supply constraints ease.

The central bank’s report on regional economies showed that the damage was being felt well beyond the areas directly hit by the March 11 quake, including the Tokai central Japan region, home to the auto giant Toyota.

“Cautious views about the economy have become widespread in many regions, mainly reflecting setbacks in production following the earthquake,” the Bank of Japan said in the quarterly report, issued after a meeting of the bank’s branch managers.

The central bank cut its economic assessment for seven of the nine regions of the country.

It said output fell chiefly in regions closely linked to car manufacturing, as the 9.0 magnitude quake damaged equipment, disrupted supply chains and cut off electricity.

Japan’s top automakers planned to resume work at all domestic plants in stages starting on Monday, but output levels will be at half of original plans and depend on the availability of parts and power.

Sendai Bank, which is based in one of the quake-hit areas, said on Monday that it might seek an injection of public funds to bolster its capital, becoming the first lender to signal that it may tap a government scheme to help banks hurt by the quake.

The Bank of Japan’s regional report, similar to the Federal Reserve’s beige book, showed that the northeast region had been damaged massively, with production and business facilities impaired.

The head of the bank’s Osaka branch in western Japan offered a somewhat upbeat take on output for his region, which is home to several big electronics manufacturers, saying that conditions could improve in May or June.

“Many electronics firms have managed to continue production by making use of parts kept in stock,” the head of the Osaka branch, Hideo Hayakawa, told a news conference.

The assessments of the regional economy will be taken into account when the bank reviews its long-term economic forecasts, to be issued in its twice-yearly outlook report on April 28.

The bank is expected to sharply cut its growth forecast for the fiscal year that began in April, although the dominant view within the bank is that the economy will narrowly escape a contraction for the year.

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