Friday, July 22, 2011

Japan (2): A Long Hard Slog

This post will be useful if you want to find the data on Japanese debt. Otherwise, you might want to skip it... unless you want a lesson in how difficult it is to use (or to explain) an inconsistent internet interface.

At Thought Offerings, in hbl's post The Mystery of Japan's Private Debt Levels (Solved?), in the Methodology for Obtaining Japan's Debt Data section, the link to "the aggregate national accounts stock data" is broken. But the error page provides a link to the Cabinet Office Home Page.

At the home page, under "Statistics" is ESRI(GDP, Business statistics). Clicking ESRI brings you to a page with a few bold headings, including

  • What's New (ESRI)
  • Monthly Economic Report and Other Reports
  • Business Statistics (ESRI)
  • SNA(National Accounts of Japan) (ESRI)

Under "SNA(National Accounts of Japan)" the second item is Annual Report on National Accounts. Clicking that turns up three options:

  • National Accounts for 2009
  • Information of corrections
  • Release Archive

Clicking National Accounts for 2009 brings up a page that offers three options across the top of the page: "Flow", "Stock", and "Trial Estimation". Clicking Stock brings up a categorized list of Excel files. Here, I'll show you the part of it you need:

Among the supporting tables they have Closing Stocks of Financial Assets/Liabilities : All Main Sectors: Stocks of liabilities (Excel:447KB)

Click it, and you download an excel file. Turned out, that was the one I needed. The name of the file I got was "21ss62_en.xls".

Now... hbl provides a description of what to look for in the Excel file:

What I found for 2009 is a pretty good match to this, close enough to confirm I'm on the right track. hbl uses two subtotals to count as debt: "Loans" and "Securities other than shares". In the post he's not completely confident that his selection is the best match to comparable U.S. data. I'm not, either, but it seems right to me. Anyway, I'll select the same rows, and have high confidence that my graphs will be comparable with his.

The Excel file provides a separate worksheet for each year from 1980 to 2009. So I have to pull out the numbers I need and compile them myself. But that's okay. At least I have numbers to work with!

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