Mood Among Japan Merchants Edges Up Amid Olympic Spending
(Bloomberg) -- Sentiment among Japanese merchants ticked up last month as the Olympics encouraged spending on food and drinks for home viewing and as sales of outdoor goods picked up even amid rising coronavirus cases.
A gauge of sentiment among store managers, taxi drivers and others who deal directly with consumers edged up to 48.4 from 47.6, the Cabinet Office’s Economy Watchers survey showed Tuesday.
A reading below 50 indicates pessimists still outnumber optimists, but the improvement was nevertheless surprising given that the country is dealing with its worst wave of the virus yet.
The survey, which was taken in the last week of July as the Olympics were kicking off, showed sentiment picking up in 7 of the country’s 11 regions.
It cited a convenience store worker in an area north of the capital as seeing an increase in customers buying in bulk to stock up for viewing the Olympics at home.
A person working in textiles in the Hokuriku area said vaccinations had improved people’s willingness to venture out and shop, although they said that clothing sales were hurt by requests from authorities that residents avoid unnecessary outings.
The survey also showed the mood soured in Tokyo, the epicenter of the latest outbreak, and plunged in Okinawa, where a spike in cases numbers is disrupting the summer tourism trade.
To try to contain the virus, Japan last month called a fourth state of emergency for the capital that has since been widened to more prefectures and extended to the end of August.
Data on foot traffic show that people are more and more ignoring the government’s calls for caution even as higher caseloads of the more contagious Delta variant of the virus in Tokyo and other big cities have pushed national infection numbers to record levels.
Japan’s death rates remain relatively low with about 80% of seniors having been fully vaccinated.
Still, an index measuring merchants’ view of the future fell to 48.4 from 52.4, dropping for the first time since April. One representative comment came from a taxi driver from northern Japan, a relatively remote area, who was cited as worrying that the virus’ spread would trigger measures to quell the virus outside of the currently affected areas.
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