Japan Dec CPI likely hit 18-month low, fuelling steady view on BOJ: Reuters poll By Reuters

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© Reuters. A woman looks at items at a shop in Tokyo, Japan, March 24, 2023. REUTERS/Androniki Christodoulou/File Photo

By Kantaro Komiya

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s consumer inflation rate likely decelerated in December for a second month in a row to hit the lowest in 1-1/2 years, thanks to smaller increases in food prices and diminishing energy costs, a Reuters poll showed on Friday.

The poll also showed December wholesale prices likely fell for the first time in nearly three years, fuelling market expectations that the Bank of Japan will not hurry into monetary normalisation at its Jan. 22-23 policy meeting.

The nationwide core consumer price index (CPI), which excludes fresh foods but includes energy items, was seen rising 2.3% in December from a year ago, down from a 2.5% increase in November, according to the median forecast of 18 economists.

If the reading is in line with the forecast, it would mark Japan’s lowest inflation rate since 2.2% in June 2022.

“The pace of food price hikes is slowing down, while utility costs are falling at a faster rate,” said Shunpei Fujita, a Mitsubishi UFJ (NYSE:) Research and Consulting economist.

The poll also forecast the Corporate Goods Price Index (CGPI), a gauge of wholesale inflation, fell 0.3% in December from a year earlier, in what would be its first decrease since February 2021.

Analysts say Japan’s cost-driven inflation is coming to an end, which would take some pressure off the central bank to exit years of ultra-loose monetary policy.

But most analysts polled by Reuters in December still expectthe Japanese central bank to ditch negative interest rates by the end of this year.

December CPI data is due at 8:30 a.m. on Jan. 19 (2330 GMT, Jan. 18), while CGPI data is due at 8:50 a.m. on Jan. 16 (2350 GMT, Jan. 15).

Elsewhere in the poll, economists expected core machinery orders, a leading indicator of business spending, to have fallen 0.8% month-on-month in November — the first contraction in three months.

The government will release trade data at 8:50 a.m. on Dec. 20 (2350 GMT, Dec. 19).

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