Japan Economy, Construction & Lumber Shipments
Japan’s economy closed out 2013 on a fragile upwards growth trajectory. Annual GDP advanced 1.6% in 2013. However fourth quarter GDP results fell to a 0.9% annualized rate. Weaker than expected consumer demand as well as declining capital investment are cited as the factors for the slowing growth rate late in 2013. There are concerns that the introduction of the consumption tax increase in April may stall growth starting in Q2 2014.
Progress is evident with the Abe government’s objective of ending Japan’s deflationary spiral. Year over year consumer prices edged up 1.3% in December and wholesale prices were up 2.4% in January. The government described prices as “rising moderately” for the first time since 2008.
Exports surged 15.3% in December and 9.5% in January, however, the increase failed to keep the pace with rising imports. Imports jumped 25% in January: leading to a record monthly trade deficit of $27.2 billion.
Japan Housing Starts Summary
December Results: Total December housing starts surged 18% to finish at 89,578 units. The December results marked a 16th consecutive monthly gain. Wood frame housing starts increased 18.3% to 51,505 units. Mansion condominiums were up 7.4%. Post and beam starts rose by 21.2% to 38,584 units and wooden pre-fab homes bettered year prior results by 17.7%. Platform frame housing starts increased by 9.3% to 11,209 units. The breakdown in platform frame included 3,366 custom built single family, 1,244 built for sale single family and 6,599 apartments.
2013 Summary: Platform Starts Hit New Record of 120,111 Units
Total housing starts for 2013 finished at 979,683 units: an 11% gain over year prior results. Total wooden starts increased 13% to 549,971 units. Post and beam starts increased by just under 49,000 units to finish at 412,892. Wooden pre-fab was up by 11.8% to 16,968. Platform frame starts posted a record high of 120,111 units: besting the previous high in 2008 by 12,400 units. As a percentage of total starts, wood frame construction was up 1.0% to 56.1%.
Japan Softwood Export Statistics: 2013 Wrap Up
Total Canadian softwood lumber exports to Japan increased by 7.0% to finish at 2,835,384m3. By species, the 2013 year over year results were as follows: SPF increased 9.57% to 1,973,380m3; Hem Fir edged down 1,165m3 to 404,735m3; Douglas Fir / Larch increased 1% to 264,087m3; Yellow Cedar dropped 11% to 100,099m3; Western Red Cedar nearly doubled to 38,537m3 and Sitka Spruce increased by about 800m3 to 9,492m3.