TOKYO, Apr 7 (.) – Consumer spending in Japan declined in February, albeit at a slower-than-expected pace, as households bought up huge amounts of face masks, toilet paper and staple foods as the outbreak worsened of coronavirus.

However, spending on travel and leisure declined, official data released Tuesday showed, signaling that households were reducing nonessential purchases even before the travel ban and measures came into effect. of social distancing.

Analysts expect the pandemic’s impact on consumption to deepen significantly in the coming months following the declaration of a state of emergency on Tuesday, which will likely paralyze activity in major Japanese cities for a month, Tokyo included.

“This pandemic is an unprecedented type of economic crisis that deals an immediate blow to consumption and employment,” said Yasuhide Yajima, chief economist at the NLI Research Institute.

“We are likely to see a free fall in consumption in March and in never-before-recorded amounts. In a crisis like this, Japan has no choice but to embark on massive injections of funds like other major economies,” Yajima said.

Household spending fell by 0.3% in February compared to the previous year, which is the fifth consecutive month of declines, but it is less than the average forecast by the market, which expected a drop of 3, 9% after the decrease of 3.9% in January.

Expenditure on toilet paper rose 47% in February compared to the same month the previous year, while in national tourist packages it fell 37%.

(Information from Leika Kihara; translated by Tomás Cobos)