Japan’s economy shrank an annualised 3.5 per cent between July and September, the steepest decline since the earthquake-hit first quarter of 2011, as exporters suffered big falls in shipments to key markets such as China and Europe.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda described the gross domestic product figures as “severe”, while Seiji Maehara, economy minister, said Japan had possibly entered a “recessionary phase”.
In a speech on Monday, Masaaki Shirakawa, Bank of Japan governor, said there was “no question that the [central bank] should exert every effort to enhance its easing effects as much as possible”. He said domestic demand was “unlikely to increase at a pace that will outperform the weakness in exports”.
The Japanese government’s monthly survey of “economy watchers” – which includes barbers, hoteliers, car dealers and others who deal with consumers – has recorded six falls in a row since April. Last month the index stood at a level little better than that of April 2011, in the immediate aftermath of the quake.
Japanese manufacturers from Nissan to Shiseido have reported steep falls in sales of their products in China, following a wave of demonstrations against Tokyo’s nationalisation of some of the islands in mid-September.
Japan’s top seven automakers have cut their projections for Chinese sales by a fifth, for the fiscal year to March, according to calculations by the Nikkei newspaper.