TOKYO : Japan’s core machinery orders rose in July after a dip the previous month, a sign corporate spending is perking up despite the wider hit to the economy from the pandemic.

However, the weaker-than-expected rebound may add to concerns about Japan’s already tepid recovery, which has largely relied on manufacturers and other export-oriented businesses as curbs dampen domestic consumption.

Core machinery orders, a highly volatile data series regarded as a leading indicator of capital spending in the next six to nine months, rose 0.9per cent in July from the previous month, weaker than 3.1per cent gain seen by economists in a Reuters poll.

It followed a 1.5per cent dip in the prior month.

The Japanese economy is at risk of slipping back into contraction in the current quarter as the COVID-19 pandemic hits private consumption and manufacturing.

Adding to worries about the outlook, manufacturers’ mood fell to a five-month low in September, the Reuters Tankan, which closely tracks the central bank’s key tankan survey, showed amid the pandemic and a global chip shortage.

The batch of data comes as the ruling party’s leadership race heats up. The winner of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Sept. 29 leadership contest is expected to become prime minister and will need to lay out a growth strategy to get cautious Japanese firms to spend their massive piles of cash https://jp.reuters.com/article/japan-economy-capex/update-1-japans-capex-rises-for-first-time-since-covid-19-outbreak-idUSL4N2Q21KZ.

By sector, orders from manufacturers rose 6.7per cent month-on-month in July marking a fourth straight month of increase, while service-sector orders tumbled 9.5per cent. Industries such as electric machinery led manufacturers, but construction, wholesale and retail industries dragged on service-sector orders.

External orders, which are not counted as core orders, rose 24.1per cent, rebounding from the previous month’s 10per cent drop.

Compared with a year earlier, core orders, which exclude those for ships and electricity utilities, grew 11.1per cent in July, below a 15.7per cent jump forecast by economists, the data showed.

The Cabinet Office maintained its assessment on machinery orders, describing them as showing signs of “picking up.”

(Reporting by Kantaro Komiya and Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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