US economy

Japan Oct retail sales rise for first time in 3 months but less than expected



© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A woman runs past a fashion boutique in a shopping district in Tokyo, Japan, September 29, 2016. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

By Kantaro Komiya and Yoshifumi Takemoto

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s retail sales rose for the first time in three months in October, though less than expected, data showed on Monday, a sign private consumption has yet to pick up strongly despite the easing of COVID-19 curbs amid a fragile economic recovery.

Following a larger-than-expected contraction in July-September, analysts expect the world’s third-largest economy to rebound this quarter thanks to an upturn in household spending, while supply-side concerns still loom for export-reliant businesses.

Retail sales rose 0.9% in October from a year earlier, government data showed on Monday, versus the median market forecast for a 1.1% increase.

Compared with the previous month, retail sales grew 1.1% on a seasonally adjusted basis.

Japan has eased coronavirus restrictions on restaurant hours, large-scale events and border controls as infections have fallen dramatically and more than three-fourths of its population is fully vaccinated.

Private-sector statistics, however, had shown the comeback of consumer spending was gradual in October, and analysts said a full recovery in sectors hit hard by the pandemic such as face-to-face services will take longer time.

To boost Japan’s lukewarm economic recovery, the government earlier this month announced a record $490 billion stimulus package, including cash payouts to households with children and subsidies to COVID-hit businesses.

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