By ELAINE KURTENBACH
TOKYO (AP) a¿¿ Japan's economy is gaining momentum, data for October showed, with consumer prices excluding food and energy rising 0.3 percent from a year earlier, the biggest gain since 1998. However, household spending remained tepid, as incomes slipped from the same month a year before.
The slew of indicators released Friday suggests that the ultra-loose monetary policy and stimulus strategy of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is helping end a long bout of deflation for the world's No. 3 economy.
Industrial output rose 0.5 percent in October, the second straight month of increase, driven by increases in production of machinery used to make computer chips and other industrial products, plastics and cellphones.The government reported that excluding food, the core consumer price index rose 0.9 percent from the year before. Including both food and energy, prices rose 1.1 percent. Japan's jobless rate remained flat in October, though the number of jobs available rose slightly. Further improvement is expected in November, driven by strength in housing construction and exports. "Business conditions in the Japanese manufacturing economy improved for the ninth consecutive month and at a rapid pace in November, driven for the most part by an expansion of both foreign and domestic demand," said Claudia Tillbrooke, an economist at Markit. Markit's purchasing managers index, which measures manufacturing activity, rose to 55.1 in November from 54.2 in October. A reading above 50 suggests expansion. The government and central bank have set a target for attaining a 2 percent inflation rate within two years. So far, economists say most of the increase in prices has come from a weakening in the Japanese yen, which erodes consumer spending power and increases costs in yen terms for imports of fuel, food and industrial components. The 0.3 percent rise in prices excluding food and fuel was the highest since August 1998 and the first positive reading since 2008.