(Bloomberg) -- Japan’s annual wage negotiations are nearing a conclusion, drawing intense scrutiny as the Bank of Japan looks for evidence of a virtuous wage-price cycle that would allow it to exit from the world’s last negative rate regime.

In the latest key developments, the UA Zensen union said early results from this year’s negotiations for its members resulted in full-time workers securing average pay increases of 6.7%, the most since it was founded in 2013.

Rengo, the nation’s biggest union federation, said its members demanded on average the biggest pay hike since 1993, at 5.85%, compared with demands for a 4.49% increase a year ago. Initial results from its pay talks are due March 15.

Annual pay deals that show a pattern of higher wage increases taking hold across a wider part of the economy would help cement the case for the central bank to raise interest rates for the first time since 2007. Most economists expect that move in March or April. The UA Zensen and Rengo results have fed into growing speculation the BOJ will move early.

Still, the results of wage negotiations may be patchy, as smaller companies have indicated they have limited scope to increase pay. 

BOJ policy board member Junko Nakagawa said Thursday the bank could make a move even before all the data from smaller companies have been collated. At the same time, she said that while the certainty toward achieving the BOJ’s price goal is rising, strong wage results alone wouldn’t mean the goal is achieved.

One survey shows economists are looking for the negotiations to result in gains of 3.88% this year. That compares with a final result of 3.58% growth last year. 

Here are some of the highlights of this year’s pay talks, from key dates to potential deals to be announced.

Key Dates

  • March 13: Toyota meets with union for latest round. Many unions to report on deals.
  • March 15: Rengo, Japan’s biggest labor union federation, releases first tally of pay deals
  • March 18-19: BOJ policy meeting
  • March 22: Rengo releases second tally
  • April 4: Rengo releases third tally
  • April 25-26: BOJ policy meeting
  • June 13-14 : BOJ policy meeting
  • Early July: Rengo releases final tally
  • July 30-31: BOJ policy meeting

Deals Reached 

Early Plans

2023 Rengo Results

--With assistance from Tsuyoshi Inajima.

(Updates with the latest developments from unions)

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