Japan's longest run of economic growth in almost 30 years is over

16 May, 2018, 16:20 | Author: Sally Reid
  • Japan’s economy expected to show sluggish growth in first quarter

Japan's economy contracted more than expected at the start of this year, suggesting growth has peaked after the best run of expansion in decades, unwelcome news for a government struggling to get traction for its reflationary policies.

"This figure is worse than the consensus (Bloomberg survey median) forecast of -0.1% q-q annualized, but in line with our forecast".

The contraction, which was driven by a decline in investment and consumption and weaker exports, comes as Japan Inc worries about the possible effect of U.S. President Donald Trump's protectionist policies on global trade.

The economy was stalled by stagnant private consumption, which was flat in the January to March period after an uptick of 0.2 per cent in the final quarter of a year ago.

Export demand added 0.1% to first quarter GDP but the rate of growth is slowing. "Real private-sector final consumption was down slightly (-0.0% q-q) and real exports slowed from +2.2% q-q in 2017 Q4 to +0.6% in 2018 Q1".

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Consumers will keep purse strings tight "unless the pace of wage increases shows a clear acceleration", he said in a commentary published ahead of the data release. But economists believe the drop would be temporary.

Nominal GDP was down 0.4% on quarter, missing expectations for a gain of 0.1% following the 0.1% gain three months earlier.

Consumer spending fell marginally, registering a decline of less than one percentage point in the first quarter.

Nevertheless, wages are finally showing signs of picking up and Minami from Norinchukin said that would feed through into consumer spending in the coming months. Japan's exports to the US could suffer, and indirectly its economy will likely take a hit, if China's exports to the USA fall.

But SMBC Nikko Securities chief market economist Yoshimasa Maruyama warned that private consumption was weak even when the special factors were taken into consideration.

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