Japan's economy grew by 1% sequentially, and 4% on an annualized basis in Q2, smashing expectations of a 2.5% print and well above the upward revised 1.5% in the first quarter; it was also the the highest quarterly growth since a 5% print in Q2 2015, Japan's Cabinet Office reported, and the 6th consecutive quarter of expansion for recently embattled Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has plunged in the polls following a series of corruption scandals.
The unexpectedly strong GDP print was driven by a 9.9% jump in private non-residential investment as well as an striking 21.9% annualized surge in public investment as some of the public works spending included in last year’s economic stimulus package starting to emerge; meanwhile exports declined.
On a sequential basis, GDP rose 1.0%, above the 0.6% expected, up from the 0.4% in Q1 and the highest print in just over two years.
Annualized private demand soared by 5.3%, or 1.3% higher compared to the first quarter, an impressive jump from the previous quarter’s rise of 0.2%. Private consumption rose 0.9% in Q2, more than double the 0.4% reported for the first quarter. Aside from the clearly "one-time" surge in public investment, which in the second quarter exploded by an annualized 21.9% as some of the public works spending included in last year’s economic stimulus package have started to emerge, private non-residential investment climbed 2.4% from 0.9% in Q1, while government consumption grew 0.3%, bouncing from a 0.1% contraction in the prior quarter.
Finally, spoiling the otherwise pristine report was the unexpected drop in exports of goods and services which dropped 0.5% on a quarterly basis and -1.9% annualized, the lowest export number since Q2 of 2016. The plunge in net exports dragged Japan's headline growth figure down 0.3% points.
Ahead of the number, Goldman's Japan analyst Naohiko Baba said that "we estimate Apr-Jun real GDP growth of +2.4% qoq annualized, up from +1.0% in Jan-Mar. While we expect net exports to turn to a negative contributor, we think private-sector demand was strong for personal consumption and capex. We also expect double-digit growth for public capital formation, with some of the public works spending included in last year’s economic stimulus package starting to emerge. We think Apr-Jun GDP will show a clearer tilt toward domestic demand led growth. "
Separately, Barclays analysts said that "looking forward, we expect real GDP to rise an annualized 1.3% in Q3, 0.9% in Q4, and 1.0% in Q1 2018 on a q/q basis,” they wrote. “For Q3, we believe external demand will reverse to a positive contribution and anticipate a continued economic boost from last fiscal year’s second supplementary budget of 11 October 2016?.
Considering the absolute non-reaction in markets, where the USDJPY is up barely 20 pips in a delayed response to Japan's "best" economic report in over two years, either nobody puts any credibility in this number, or just as likely, fundamental economic data no longer matters to any investing decisions.
Finally, as some commentators put it best on Twitter, "yen climbs on nuclear war. yen falls on strong GDP. good"
yen climbs on nuclear war. yen falls on strong GDP. good— Lee Saks (@Lee_Saks) August 14, 2017