Japan March exports to shrink for fourth straight month, fuelling growth worries: Reuters poll

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TOKYO (Apr 12): Japan’s exports likely contracted for a fourth straight month in March, a Reuters poll predicted on Friday, underlining worries that weak external demand and trade frictions could stunt its economic recovery.

The nation’s consumer inflation is also expected to remain tepid in March, the poll also showed, leaving the Bank of Japan under pressure to meet its elusive 2 percent target.

Exports are forecast to have declined 2.7 percent in March from a year earlier, according to the median forecast in the poll of 17 economists, after a 1.2 percent fall in February.

Japan and many other trade-reliant economies have been bruised in the past year by the Sino-U.S. tariff war, which has disrupted global supply chains in a blow to business investment and overall world demand.

Imports are expected to have risen 2.6 percent for the month, the first gain in three months, resulting in a trade balance of a surplus of 372.2 billion yen ($3.33 billion), the poll showed.

“The global economy and trades are slowing down. In addition, impacts from the trade conflict between the United States and China are appearing gradually since last fall,” said Takeshi Minami, chief economist at Norinchukin Research Institute.

“Exports to Asia such as China have been sluggish.”

Earlier on Thursday, Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda signaled the central bank will hold off on further stimulus at this month’s rate review. But in a nod to rising pressure on the economy, Kuroda also warned that risks to the global outlook remained, such as the fate of U.S.-China trade talks and lingering uncertainty on the path of Britain’s exit from the European Union.

The Finance Ministry will release trade data at 8:50 a.m. Japan time on Wednesday, April 17 (2350 GMT, April 16).

The poll also found Japan’s core consumer price index, which includes oil products but excludes volatile fresh food costs, rose 0.7 percent in March from year ago, the same rate of gain in February.

“Impacts from oil price falls in the past will become visible, so core CPI is expected to lack momentum,” said Yoshiki Shinke, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute.

The Internal Affairs Ministry will release data on consumer prices at 8:30 a.m. Tokyo time on April 19 (2330 GMT on April 18).