It was not a good end to 2015 for Japanese retailers.
According to the data released by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, sales slipped 0.2% over the month, leaving the annual rate down 1.1%, unchanged from November.
The annual figure missed expectations for an improvement to -0.1%.
As the chart below reveals, having hit a high of 4.6% in April, growth in retail spending failed to gain traction in the second half of 2015.
The disappointing sales report came despite news that Japanese consumer confidence hit a two-year high in December.
The government’s consumer confidence index rose to 42.7 in December, taking it to the highest level seen since November 2013.
Obviously that boost in confidence was not enough to boost actual retail spending.
The soft retail report, along with news that Japanese import and export growth tumbled to multi-year lows in December, has seen interest in this week’s Bank of Japan monetary policy meeting ramp up in recent days.
The bank begins its two-day monetary policy meeting today, with the official policy decision expected to arrive midway through Friday’s Asian trading session.
According to Reuters, while the bank would prefer to hold back on implementing further policy easing, people familiar with the BOJ’s thinking say that recent global market volatility could yet force its hand.