1 Japan economy picks up pace (Richard Partington in The Guardian) Japan’s economy expanded at the fastest pace for more than two years in the three months to June, with domestic spending accelerating as the country prepares for the 2020 Toyko Olympics and low levels of unemployment encouraged businesses to invest.
The world’s third largest economy recorded an expansion in second-quarter gross domestic product at an annualised rate of 4%, according to figures from the cabinet office, making the country the fastest-growing of the G7 wealthy nations.
The data comes as a shot in the arm amid rising regional tensions sparked by the US president, Donald Trump, and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, a war of words that rattled global stock markets last week and could threaten Japan, its economy and the rest of the world.
Japan is shrugging off decades of sluggish growth that it has been attempting to counter with a massive money printing programme championed by the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, to stimulate bank lending, investment from companies and buying among consumers.
The factors that propelled the most recent growth in GDP were led by rising domestic activity, as consumer spending accelerated significantly, while low unemployment helped wages to grow faster than in the previous quarter. On a less positive note, net exports declined by 0.3%.
The overall result was much stronger than expected by the market, as economists had predicted the country would grow by 2.5% on an annualised basis in the second quarter. Japan grew at 1% in the quarter alone, against expectations for a 0.6% expansion.
2 Indonesia oil and gas sector in decline (Straits Times) Once a cornerstone of the economy, Indonesia’s oil and gas sector is in a slump, even as the country’s appetite for energy soars. Hit by a drop in global prices, changing regulations and competition from neighbors that are proving more attractive to international energy companies, Southeast Asia’s biggest economy is facing a decline in oil revenue and steadily rising fuel imports.
With an economy growing at a 5 per cent clip and the government embarking on a vast infrastructure roll out, the oil and gas industry is sounding alarm bells over the decline of a sector that five years ago accounted for almost 6 per cent of Indonesia’s gross domestic product and last year contributed only 3 per cent.
Investment for exploration in Indonesia shrank to $100 million in 2016 from $1.3 billion in 2012, according to government data. A lack of drilling success and commercialization issues have weakened Indonesia’s outlook and spending is likely to drop further, said Johan Utama, a Southeast Asia oil analyst.
Two decades ago, Indonesia pumped about 1.5 million barrels of oil a day and the country, in 1997, was host to the meeting of oil ministers from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Now Indonesia has applied to rejoin Opec after being out of the group for most of the past eight years. Oil traders and executives complain of a dearth of exploration and “stagnant” investment in the country. Part of that is caused by the drop in oil prices since the heady days from 2011 to mid 2014, when crude averaged more than $100 a barrel. Now it’s less than half that level, affecting investment decisions worldwide.
A PwC survey of more than 50 companies involved in the Indonesian oil and gas industry identified a “stagnant” investment environment and concerns about government commitment to the sanctity of contracts.
3 US White nationalists plan rallies (Peter Fimrite & Joe Garofoli in San Francisco Chronicle) With violence sparked by neo-Nazis in Virginia raising tensions across the US, white nationalists are planning rallies in San Francisco and Berkeley later this month.
A permit has been issued for a “Patriot Prayer” group to gather Aug. 26 at Crissy Field in San Francisco, said Sonja Hanson, spokeswoman for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The group is ostensibly religious, but its purpose is really “an attempt to provoke black-clad ideologues on the left into acts of violence,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups.
Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin said another group, No Marxism in America, is planning an event on Aug. 27 at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park in Berkeley. The park was the site of two other gatherings of far-right protesters this year, including one on April 15 marked by violent clashes with counter-protesters.