**Inflation Alert: Japan Sees Early Signs of Rising Inflation and Wages, According to Cabinet Official**

Tokyo, Japan – The Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan, Hideki Murai, has stated that the country is observing early signs of increasing inflation and wages. In efforts to foster a positive cycle of rising inflation and wages, the government is intensifying measures to reduce the bargaining power of major corporations that exert pressure on smaller suppliers to accept price cuts. The government has mandated that company executives take more responsibility in setting prices, with warnings of potential penalties for firms that unjustly push suppliers to lower prices. While larger companies have announced salary increases, the focus of the Kishida administration is on enhancing the profitability of smaller businesses, enabling them to raise wages as well. The Bank of Japan requires sustainable wage hikes before considering an exit from its ultra-loose monetary policy, although no confirmation has been provided on meeting the conditions for the BOJ to lift negative interest rates.

Tata Motors, an Indian automaker, saw a surge of over 7% in its shares following an announcement about the separation of its commercial vehicle and passenger vehicle units through a demerger. The split, to be implemented through a scheme of arrangement, ensures that all shareholders will maintain equal shareholding in both listed entities. This move aims to empower each business to pursue individual growth strategies with increased agility while reinforcing accountability. Anticipated to conclude in 12 to 15 months, pending shareholder, creditor, and regulatory approvals, the demerger is forecasted to have a positive impact on employees, customers, and business partners.

In China, defense stocks experienced a boost as the country revealed plans for a 7.2% rise in defense spending in 2024 during the annual parliamentary meetings in Beijing. This increase follows previous years’ hikes in defense expenditure and resulted in a 2.2% surge in the CSI Defense index, reaching its highest level since mid-January. Various Chinese defense companies, such as Fujian Torch Electron and Aerospace CH UAV, witnessed notable gains in stock prices. Additionally, Japan’s capital city of Tokyo reported an acceleration in inflation to 2.6% in February, marking a rebound from a 22-month low experienced in January. Core inflation and “core-core” inflation figures remained steady, indicating an upward trend in prices, which are considered leading indicators of national trends in Japan.

The gold market saw U.S. gold futures reaching record highs, settling at $2,126.30 per ounce following expectations of future interest rate cuts. Typically, gold prices exhibit an inverse relationship with interest rates, leading to price increases when rates decline. As investors anticipated a potential rate cut later in the year, gold prices began to rise after January’s inflation data met expectations. Amid the tech-driven market rally, UBS recommended investors diversify their portfolios to take full advantage of emerging trends in the industry. The bank highlighted generative AI as a major growth theme, suggesting a strategic focus on U.S. large-cap tech companies while also considering opportunities in Asia for tech diversification.

The current account surplus in Australia surged in the fourth quarter to its widest since the first quarter, buoyed by a significant increase in iron ore and coal exports. This sharp rise in the surplus, totaling $11.8 billion Australian dollars, exceeded expectations and reflected a stronger trade surplus driven by mineral exports. These developments illustrate the country’s robust economic performance and positive trade dynamics. Finally, South Korea’s GDP expanded by 0.6% in the fourth quarter, consistent with earlier estimates, showcasing steady growth in the economy. Despite a slight dip in stock prices, maintaining a positive growth trajectory underscores the resilience of South Korea’s economic landscape.