Japan’s economy set to rebound on capex, consumer spending in fourth-quarter: Reuters poll

A man works at a construction site in Tokyo
A man works at a construction site in Tokyo, Japan June 8, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato

February 1, 2019

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s economy likely rebounded in the fourth quarter led by capital expenditure and consumer spending but weak exports could dampen the momentum, a Reuters poll showed on Friday.

Slowing global demand and U.S.-Sino trade frictions have already taken their toll on the trade-reliant economy, and rising external pressures are expected to drag on growth this year.

Gross domestic product (GDP) was seen expanding an annualized 1.4 percent in the October-December quarter, the poll found, after the third quarter shrank 2.5 percent – the most in more than four years as companies slashed spending and business activity was hurt by typhoons and an earthquake.

The expected annualized growth would translate into a 0.4 percent quarter-on-quarter expansion after the economy shrank 0.6 percent in the third quarter, the poll showed.

“The data will likely confirm the economy in the latter half of last year slowed down to be nearly at a standstill,” said Yoshiki Shinke, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute. “Growth in exports was sluggish because of a slowdown in the overseas economy.”

Capital spending was expected to have grown 1.8 percent in the fourth quarter, bouncing back from a 2.8 percent fall in the third quarter, the poll found.

Private consumption, which accounts for about 60 percent of GDP, likely rose 0.8 percent for the quarter, after it fell 0.2 percent in July-September, it showed.

External demand – or exports minus imports – was seen likely to take 0.4 percentage point off GDP growth in the final quarter of 2018, the poll showed. It would be the biggest subtraction since October-December 2013.

“We believe the economy from January-March continues to lack strength reflecting the external economic slowdown. If uncertainties rise further due to factors such as trade war, it could lead to a slowdown in exports and capital spending,” said Kentaro Arita, senior economist at Mizuho Research Institute.

The Cabinet Office will announce the GDP data on Feb. 14 at 8:50 a.m. Japan time (2350 GMT, Feb. 13).

The poll also showed the nation’s household spending grew 0.8 percent in December from a year earlier, up for the first time in four months.

“In addition to price falls in gasoline and fresh food, winter bonuses seem to have been firm. The recovery trend in consumer spending appears to be intact,” said Takeshi Minami, chief economist at Norinchukin Research Institute.

Japan’s current account surplus was expected to have contracted to 429.8 billion yen ($3.95 billion) in December from 757.2 billion yen in November as its trade surplus narrowed on weak exports to Asia, according to the poll.

The government will announce household spending at 8:30 a.m. on Feb. 8 Friday (2330 GMT on Feb. 7) and will release current account balance data at 8:50 a.m. on the same day.

(Reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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