Japan August retail sales slip renews pressure on policymakers

A man walks up a spiral staircase at a shopping mall at the Tokyo's Ginza shopping district, Japan

By Stanley White

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s retail sales fell more than expected in August for the sixth straight month of annual declines due to falling sales of clothes and home appliances – keeping policymakers under pressure to find ways of beefing up household spending.

Retail sales fell 2.1 percent in August from a year earlier, more than a median market forecast for a 1.8 percent annual decline, data from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry showed on Thursday.

The weak reading underscores the relative fragility in Japan’s economy, with slow wage growth and gloomy prospects of recovery weighing on household spending.

Japan’s economy grew faster over April-June than initially estimated due to upward revisions to capital expenditure and inventories, but there are concerns from a recent run of weak data on exports, factory output and household spending.

The parliament will soon start to deliberate a government stimulus package with planned spending 7.5 trillion yen by the national and local governments on infrastructure projects in an attempt to boost domestic demand.

Economists say the package, which is sure to be passed in parliament, could support growth but still worry whether wages will rise fast enough to spur consumer spending.

(Reporting by Stanley White; Editing by Eric Meijer)