Japanese consumer sentiment worsened in April for the fifth straight month to hit its lowest since August 2011, according to a Cabinet Office survey.
The seasonally adjusted index for households' outlook on living conditions six months ahead came to 37.0, down 0.5 point from March and the lowest since 36.9 in August 2011.
The Cabinet Office kept its assessment unchanged, saying that weak movements are seen in consumer sentiment.
Sales at department stores, electronics shops and auto dealers in Japan sank in the first month after the 1 April consumption tax hike after spiking ahead of the deadline.
Four major department store chains including Takashimaya Co. on Thursday reported plunges of between 7.9 to 15.3 percent in April from the previous year on a same-store basis as sales of jewellery and other luxury items tanked.
Among the major electronics chains, Bic Camera Inc. reported a drop of 10 percent and K's Holdings Corp. a drop of 20 percent from year-earlier levels.
Japanese retail sales rose in March at their fastest pace in 17 years as consumers went on a shopping spree before a national sales tax hike took effect on 1 April, setting the stage for a decline in consumer spending the following month.
The 11 percent annual increase in retail sales matched the median estimate and marked the fastest gain since the last time the government raised the sales tax in 1997, as consumers stocked up on electronics, toiletries and clothes to avoid paying higher prices.
Core consumer prices in Tokyo, rose 2.7 percent in April from a year earlier, logging their fastest gain since 1992 as a rise in Japan's sales tax pushed up prices broadly, data on Friday showed.
The number from Japan's capital city, which is seen as a leading indicator of inflation across the country, was below Reuters' estimate for a 2.8 percent on-year rise but above March's 1 percent rise.
The rise in Japan's sales tax to 8 percent that took effect last week has driven a boom-and-bust in sales of high-priced items like jewellery but passed with little impact on sales of daily necessities, two leading Japanese retailers said on Tuesday.
Tuesday's hike of the consumption tax to 8 percent saw mixed reactions in Tokyo and Osaka. While consumers in both cities seemed resigned to the increase, there was concern about the additional transportation and food costs.
In Osaka, as in other parts of the country, Monday night saw long lines at department stores, supermarkets and gas stations as people got in under the wire to buy clothes and household items, canned and packaged foods, and gasoline before the increase. Some shops dropped their prices as well to take advantage of the last-minute shopping spree.
Japan's core consumer prices rose for a ninth straight month in March from a year earlier and labour demand improved – further evidence the economy is making headway against years of deflation and stagnation.
Ministry of Finance data showed household spending and retail sales weakened in February as snowstorms across Japan kept many consumers at home, but there are already signs that sales are accelerating this month as shoppers rush to beat a sales tax hike on 1 April.
Japanese retailers are seeing rush demand ahead of the tax increase next Tuesday as fears grow that the hike will take a bite out of consumer spending and derail the nascent economic recovery.
Electric toothbrushes, family-size fridges and washing machines are selling fast at household and electronics chain Bic Camera, where sales in February were up almost 14 percent from a year earlier, despite unusually poor winter weather that might have otherwise kept shoppers at home.
Japanese retail sales rose 4.4 percent in January from a year earlier, government data showed on Friday, marking a sixth straight month of gains as consumers rushed to buy cars and other goods before a sales tax increase in April.
The rise compared with economists' median forecast for a 3.8 percent increase and followed a revised 2.5 percent gain in the previous month, the data from the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry showed.
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Business leaders, including top executives at Lawson Inc. and Suntory Holdings Ltd, are joining forces to back the legalisation of casinos in Japan, a proposal that could open up what is estimated to be the world's second largest gaming market.
Lawson Chief Executive Officer Takeshi Niinami and Suntory Executive Vice President Shingo Torii are among corporate and academic leaders forming a group to support a legalisation bill introduced by lawmakers, said Hiroshi Mizohata, a former head of the Japan Tourism Agency, who will also be a member.