TOKYO >> Doubts are rising over whether the Japanese economy can continue on its path of moderate recovery, as the country’s Cabinet Office lowered its assessment of the economy to “worsening” for the first time in six years.
While factors such as individual consumption remain firm, tension in U.S.-China trade relations is casting a shadow on the nation’s economy and raising concern among Japanese industries.
Toshiba Corp. recently announced that its semiconductor unit will ask as many as 350 workers to voluntarily retire in response to a larger-than-expected drop in demand for semiconductor products in China.
“We have taken such measures as relocating personnel and cutting fixed costs, but demand in China has declined,” said Hiroshi Fukuchi, Toshiba’s corporate senior vice president.
Leading semiconductor producer Renesas Electronics Corp. has likewise been suspending production at major factories since April.
The Japanese economy is closely linked to the Chinese market, since many Japanese devices are used in China-made smartphones and personal computers.
When China’s exports slow, Japanese companies take a direct hit.
Sharp Corp.’s liquid crystal television business fell into the red in the first quarter of this year, despite posting operating profits from April to December in 2018.
“The market situation was more severe than expected toward the end of the business year,” said Katsuaki Nomura, Sharp’s executive vice president.
The main factor cited was the drop in production due to slowing exports to China.
The preliminary index for industrial production in March fell 0.9% from the previous month. Manufacturing of mainly China- bound production equipment fell sharply, and the auto industry also saw declines.
Honda Motor Co. Executive Vice President Seiji Kuraishi has openly expressed his fears.
“I’m afraid that falling stock prices will indirectly cause consumers to lose their appetite for buying,” he said.
The Chinese market itself is also hugely important as a source of sales because it is expanding.