August 22, 2019 / 11:58 PM / 25 days ago

Japan's July core inflation hovers at 2-yr low, adds pressure on BOJ

* July core CPI +0.6% yr/yr, matches forecast

* July core-core CPI +0.6%, slightly faster than June (+0.5%)

* Soft inflation pressures BOJ to ease further

By Daniel Leussink

TOKYO, Aug 23 (Reuters) - Japan’s core inflation was unchanged in July, government data showed on Friday, adding pressure to the Bank of Japan to expand its radical stimulus programme to meet its 2% price target.

The core consumer price index, which includes oil products but excludes fresh food prices, rose 0.6% in July year-on-year, matching economists’ median estimate.

The reading for July matched the previous month’s gain, which was the slowest pace since July 2017 when the index climbed 0.5%.

The so-called core-core CPI, which excludes the effects of volatile food and energy costs, was also up 0.6% in July from a year earlier. It is closely watched by the BOJ to gauge how much the economy’s strength has translated into price gains.

But the data indicates the central bank remains well behind in its efforts to achieve its 2% inflation target as an eight-month long export slump on the back of the U.S.-China trade war and slowing global demand take a toll on the world’s third-largest economy.

Expectations that the BOJ will ease further have grown, a recent Reuters poll showed, after the central bank at its last policy meeting committed to expanding stimulus if a global slowdown prolongs and threatens to derail Japan’s economic recovery.

The economy grew an annualised 1.8% in the second quarter thanks to robust household consumption and business investment. But despite signs of strength at home, analysts have warned the timing of a pick-up in global demand is crucial for the growth outlook.

In July, the country’s exports slipped for an eighth month, marking the longest run of declines in exports since a 14-month stretch from October 2015 to November 2016.

Separately, Japanese manufacturers’ confidence turned negative for the first time since April 2013, the Reuters Tankan survey showed.

Reporting by Daniel Leussink; Editing by Sam Holmes

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