Japan’s business sentiment shows largest fall in 18 months

TOKYO (XINHUA – Business sentiment of workers in jobs sensitive to Japan’s economic trends experienced the sharpest downtrend in one and a half years in August, as the nation recorded consecutive all-time highs of COVID-19 cases, government data showed yesterday.

Compared with the previous three months, the confidence diffusion index of “economic observers” such as taxi drivers and restaurant employees in the current situation plunged 13.7 points to 34.7 from July, the first drop in three months, according to the Cabinet Office.

This was the largest drop since a fall of 14.0 points logged in February last year, when the country’s COVID-19 infection cases began surging and the economic outlook started to deteriorate rapidly.

The latest benchmark index reading was the lowest point since 31.2 recorded in January this year.

A reading below 50 implies that the number of respondents which reported worsening conditions exceeded that of improving ones.

The figure of new COVID-19 infection cases kept rising nationwide from around late July amid the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, and finally turned to more than 25,000 in mid-August, yet cases have begun to decline lately.

The government’s COVID-19 state of emergency has expanded from only Tokyo and the southern island prefecture of Okinawa at the beginning of August to now 21 of Japan’s 47 prefectures, covering almost half of the country.

A man walks past a taxi along a street in Shinjuku district, Tokyo. PHOTO: AFP