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Consumer confidence improved again in May. That offsets the significance of the fall in April retail sales. But while employment sentiment in the consumer confidence survey also improved, it is still noteworthy that official labour market data through April continues to feel soft.
The flash Markit PMIs in May were strong, showing the strong rise in economic momentum of the last couple of months is sustaining. According to the press release from Markit, price indicators were also firm, albiet not quite as heady as sentiment around activity.
In his first speech as governor, Ueda Kazuo reiterated the BOJ's view that the current strength of inflation will prove transitory, and that the bank will be patient. To us, the case for this time being different is strengthening, but as yet has a missing component: labour market tightening.
Japan's cycle is gaining momentum, led by a recovery in services. In this context, the recent softness of the labour market data looks even odder. The BOJ's outlook report wasn't concerned, highlighting this year's strong shunto round. This will keep upwards pressure on core CPI.
As widely expected, the BOJ meeting today didn't announce changes in policy. Data releases also showed consistency, with Tokyo inflation in April still accelerating but the labour market in March going sideways.
Decisions about changing the policy framework are interwoven with deciding that there really is a generational shift in inflation occurring. Given the BOJ's history of premature tightening, that requires almost Jedi-like levels of bravery, and we doubt the bank is ready to reach that conclusion yet.