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Why Has Japan Failed to Escape from Deflation?

Kota Watanabe and Tsutomu Watanabe

Asian Economic Policy Review, 2018, vol. 13, issue 1, 23-41

Abstract: Japan has failed to escape from deflation despite an extraordinary monetary policy easing over the past 4 years. Monetary easing undoubtedly stimulated aggregate demand, leading to an improvement in the output gap. However, since the Phillips curve was almost flat, prices have hardly reacted at all. Against this background, the key question is why prices were so sticky. To examine this, we use sectoral price data for Japan and seven other countries including the USA, and use these data to compare the shape of the price change distribution across the eight countries. Our main finding is that Japan differs significantly from the other countries in that the mode of the distribution is very close to zero for Japan, while it is near 2% for other countries. This suggests that while in the USA and other countries the “default†is for firms to raise prices by about 2% each year, in Japan the default is that, as a result of prolonged deflation, firms keep their prices unchanged.

Date: 2018
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Asian Economic Policy Review is currently edited by Takatoshi Ito, Akira Kojima, Colin McKenzie and Shujiro Urata

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