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Inflation in Tokyo continues to slow, easing pressure on BOJ to start tightening monetary policy

The latest data on core inflation in Tokyo, Japan, indicates a slowdown for the second consecutive month in December. This decrease in inflationary pressures, driven by a reduction in cost-push factors, may alleviate some pressure on the Bank of Japan (BOJ) to initiate an exit from its ultra-loose monetary policy.

The core consumer price index (CPI) for Tokyo, which excludes volatile fresh food but includes fuel costs, rose by 2.1% in December compared to the previous year, aligning with the median market forecast.
This follows a 2.3% increase in November and matches a low recorded in June 2022. Tokyo’s inflation data is closely monitored as an indicator of nationwide price trends and is a key consideration for the BOJ at its upcoming policy meeting later this month.

Separate data reveals that household spending fell for the ninth consecutive month in November, highlighting the fragile nature of Japan’s economy. This economic vulnerability may contribute to the BOJ’s cautious approach to scaling back its massive stimulus too quickly.

The rise in food prices also decelerated to 6.0% in December from 6.4% in November, signaling a moderation in cost-push pressures.

Despite inflation exceeding the BOJ’s 2% target for over a year, many market participants anticipate the central bank to begin gradually phasing out its extensive stimulus measures this year. BOJ Governor Kazuo Ueda emphasizes the importance of maintaining an ultra-loose policy until recent cost-push inflation is replaced by demand-driven price increases supported by substantial wage gains.

Market expectations for a policy shift in January were tempered after a strong earthquake in western Japan and Governor Ueda’s recent comments indicating no urgency to unwind ultra-loose monetary settings.

In contrast to some global peers that have raised interest rates aggressively to counter inflation risks, the BOJ remains dovish, maintaining its ultra-loose policy stance. The central bank’s approach reflects its commitment to carefully navigating economic conditions while considering both domestic and global factors.