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Japan sets path for overhauling economic data to improve accuracy
December 13, 2016 / 5:52 AM / 9 months ago

Japan sets path for overhauling economic data to improve accuracy

A man talks on the phone as he walks past the Bic Camera consumer electronics retailer in Tokyo, November 26, 2015. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s government has taken a large step toward an overhaul of its most important macroeconomic data to address long-standing concerns about volatility, collection methods, sample quality and accuracy.

A timetable agreed by a government panel of private-sector economists on Tuesday said improvements in statistical calculations of household spending and capital expenditure used in gross domestic product (GDP) should start from the end of 2017.

The overhaul could reduce the big swings often seen between preliminary and revised GDP data, which stem from incomplete capital expenditure data. It may also give economists an earlier picture of capex trends.

The plan calls for the government to consider streamlining the Finance Ministry’s corporate survey so it can be compiled more quickly and used in preliminary GDP data.

It also urges a study of how to adjust residential rents in the consumer price index (CPI) and whether Internet retail prices should be included in Japan’s benchmark measure of consumer prices.

The panel’s report comes shortly after the Cabinet Office, which publishes some economic indicators, adopted a new method to calculate capital expenditure for GDP, bringing it in line with the United Nations’ System of National Accounts.

The government is likely to adopt the plan in full, but it is uncertain whether proposed changes will push GDP and CPI up or down, Cabinet Office officials told reporters.

The plan calls for the government to use on-line forms to collect capital expenditure data from 2019 to increase replies and make compiling the data easier.

The government should do the same for the household spending survey, which will ease the burden on respondents and increase responses, the plan said.

The plan calls for new quarterly data on disposable income and savings from fiscal 2018, the streamlining of services sector data from fiscal 2019 and a study on how to measure the “sharing economy” to start this fiscal year, which ends in March 2017.

The “sharing economy” loosely refers to companies that use the Internet to quickly form a dispersed network of people that provide services such as delivery, taxi rides or temporary lodging.

Reporting by Stanley White; Editing by Richard Borsuk

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