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Japan's July consumer confidence keeps improving but at slower pace

A man eats Chinese food in Chinatown in Yokohama, near Tokyo, on July 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's consumer confidence in July continued to rebound from the fallout of the new coronavirus pandemic but at a slower pace amid the recent resurgence in domestic infections and the impact of torrential rains in the country's southwest, government data showed Friday.

    The seasonally adjusted index of sentiment among households made up of two or more people rose to 29.5 from 28.4 last month, a relatively small increase compared with data in June, according to the Cabinet Office.

    The index in June saw an upturn of 4.4 points, the sharpest since April 2004 when the survey began on a monthly basis.

    The index, which gives an indication of consumers' economic expectations for the coming six months, has been improving since it fell to a record low of 21.6 in April in the midst of a state of emergency over the virus declared for Tokyo and other six areas early in the month.

    Nonbinding requests for people not to go out weighed heavily on the economy until they were completely lifted in late May.

    But the figure in the reporting month remained at a low level, possibly reflecting public sentiment dampened by the recent resurgence in Tokyo and other urban areas, and is hindering full resumption of social and economic activities, a government official told reporters.

    A reading below 50 suggests pessimists outnumber optimists.

    The index was also affected by the deadly heavy rain which ripped through the southwestern region of Kyushu and other areas since July 3, and triggered flooding.

    "In hindsight, large-scale natural disasters in the past have affected the indices negatively, and this has also been the case for this month's torrential rain," said the official.

    The Cabinet Office maintained its basic assessment for the second consecutive month, saying consumer sentiment has "remained in a severe situation, but shown signs of recovery recently."

    All of the survey's four components also rose in the reporting month, with consumers' assessment of income growth marking the biggest recovery of 1.4 points to reach 32.8.

    The assessment of livelihoods rose 1.3 points to 31.7 and that of employment conditions edged up 0.8 point to 21.7, with willingness to buy durable goods also up 0.8 point to 31.6.

    The consumer confidence survey, conducted on July 15, covered 8,400 households, including 2,688 single-member households, with valid responses received from 6,907, or 82.2 percent.

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