If a large part of the West is still bogged down in the fight against the Covid-19 epidemic, the large countries of Asia are regaining, despite very slow vaccination campaigns, the dynamism of the years preceding the health crisis. . For the first time since autumn 2019, the Bank of Japan has just shown, in its major “Tankan” survey on corporate morale, that the major manufacturing groups in the archipelago had regained a level of confidence comparable to that of before the virus appeared in China.
This quarterly barometer, which measures the percentage difference between companies believing that the economy is favorable and those having the opposite opinion, stood at the beginning of 2021 at +5 in the manufacturing sector. In the last quarter of 2020, it was still measured at -10. And last summer, it fell below -30.
“This positive result is an encouraging sign and indicates a gradual economic recovery from last year’s slump,” said Sonia Zhu, an analyst at Moody’s Analytics. “And the improvement of the index is generalized to all sectors, despite the pandemic and the global shortage of semiconductors,” points out the economist.
Solid increase in Chinese and US orders
In recent months, the country’s manufacturers have mainly benefited from the solid increase in Chinese and American orders for “Made in Japan” components intended for the automotive industry or for machine tool production plants. They also welcome the gradual recovery in domestic consumption, after months of living under a very light state of emergency.
Japan, which has never imposed any containment, had put in place in January some restrictions to stop the acceleration of contamination, especially in Tokyo. Restaurants and bars had thus had to close from 8 p.m. until mid-March and the population had, of its own accord, somewhat restricted its outings in the shops. A balance that made it possible to slow down the third wave of the epidemic. Japan is currently spotting 2,000 new positive cases per day, up from nearly 5,000 in early January. Since the start of the crisis in January 2020, it has recorded 9,100 deaths linked to Covid-19.
Very pessimistic hotel and restaurant professionals
The Tankan index shows that companies in the service sector are moreover less optimistic than their counterparts in the manufacturing sector. Their level of confidence has largely recovered since last year, but it remains negative at -1 in the first quarter of 2021.
This morale is still particularly low for catering and hotel professionals who do not expect any rapid reopening of the territory to tourists. “It was decided that the Tokyo Olympics would take place without foreign visitors. Accommodation and food services activities are therefore likely to remain weak during the second quarter, ”notes Sonia Zhu.
For analysts, this concern of service professionals may continue beyond the summer due to delays in the vaccination campaign. Japan has only vaccinated one million of its 126 million inhabitants so far. Only health professionals currently have access to the vaccine, which will begin to be offered to people over 65 from mid-April. It will be necessary to wait until the first quarter of 2022 to achieve almost total vaccination of adults in the country.
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