The Japanese yen is down slightly in the Monday session. In North American trade, USD/JPY is trading at 113.00, up 0.26% on the day. On the release front, Japan’s current account surplus dropped sharply to JPY 1.21 trillion, down from 1.33 trillion. This missed the estimate of JPY 1.29 trillion. Japanese Final GDP declined 0.6%, missing the estimate of 0.5%. In the U.S, JOLTS Job Openings improved to 7.08 million, but was well short of the estimate of 7.22 million. On Tuesday, Japan releases manufacturing data, while the U.S. releases Producer Price Index reports.
The new trading week started with dismal Japanese data, as Final GDP in the third quarter declined 0.6%. This was the second decline this year. On an annualized basis, the economy declined by 2.5% in Q3, after a gain of 2.8% in the second quarter. This was the worst downturn since 2014. In particular, the capital expenditure component of GDP fell 2.8%, much weaker than the estimate of 1.6%. This capex slump could dampen growth and inflation and has weighed on business confidence.
The ongoing global trade war is a primary factor in the weak reading, as Japanese companies which export to the U.S. or China have been hurt by higher tariffs. A weaker eurozone economy has led to softer European demand for Japanese exports. Making matters worse, domestic demand remains fragile, as nervous consumers continue to hold tightly onto their purse strings.
In the U.S., the week ended with soft employment numbers. Nonfarm employment change was weaker than expected, plunging from 250 thousand to 155 thousand. This was well off the forecast of 198 thousand. Wage growth remained stuck at 0.2%, missing the estimate of 0.3%. There was better news from the unemployment rate, which remained at a sizzling 3.7%. The data points to slowing growth in the U.S, which could lead to a change in monetary policy. The Federal Reserve minutes from the November meeting indicated that policymakers discussed changing their stance of gradual increases rate increases. The markets are currently looking at one rate hike next year – just a few months ago, analysts were predicting up to rate hikes in 2019.