BOBBING FOR BASIS POINTS

Japan just entered its fourth recession in five years

The world’s third-largest economy has been spending more time shrinking than growing these days.

Japan’s GDP appears to have shrunk 0.8% in the third quarter after a 0.7% contraction in the second. Over all, its economy has contracted in five of the last eight quarters.

Not only is it a setback for prime minister Shinzo Abe’s so-called “Abenomics” program meant to return Japan to the days when it was an economic dynamo, but it puts the Bank of Japan in a particularly precarious spot. Just last month, the central bank voted almost unanimously to resist the urge to step in and further prop up the country’s already-flagging growth. That was despite the fact inflation recently slipped back to zero (thanks largely to cheap oil), in a sign that increased demand isn’t boosting prices.

Luckily, lots of money is still flowing into the country from abroad in the form of investment income and the like, which gives the Japanese economy a bit of breathing room. But the view from Tokyo is cloudy at best right now.

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