Japan's Unexpected Growth Spurt Comes With Reasons for Caution

22 Mai, 2019, 10:23 | Auteur: Auguste Feret
  • YOSHIKAZU TSUNO  AFP  Getty Images

The details, however, revealed that imports declined faster than exports - a sign of weak domestic demand. It followed a revised 1.6 per cent expansion in October-December.

Nevertheless, the better-than-expected figure pushed up Tokyo stocks, with the benchmark Nikkei 225 rising 0.24 percent, or 51.64 points, to 21,301.73, while the broader TOPIX edged up 0.04 percent, or 0.67 points, to 1,554.92.

Cabinet Office's preliminary data showed Japan's gross domestic product (GDP) grew at an annualised 2.1 per cent in the first quarter, versus the median estimate of a 0.2 per cent contraction in a Reuters poll of economists.

The latest indication of Japan's economic health comes amid uncertainty over the global economy, including US-led trade tensions, Brexit and other factors.

Japanese government officials and lawmakers have been waiting for the GDP to come out, as they are assessing whether the economy is strong enough to handle a planned consumption tax hike in October.

Weak domestic demand caused imports to decline 4.6 per cent on the quarter - faster than a 2.4 drop in exports - which helped net exports to improve in the first quarter.

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The latest data was being closely watched amid speculation that weak growth could prompt Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government to postpone a planned sales tax hike for the third time.

Japan's private consumption fell 0.1 percent in 1Q19, while a key measure of business investment, capital expenditures, or capex, slid 0.3 percent - all this despite the B0J's zero-to-negative interest rates and ultra-accessible credit in Japan's domestic market.

"All of the most important components of GDP are negative", Hiroaki Muto of Tokai Tokyo Research Centre said.

"The discussion about the tax hike delay might settle down", said Hiroyasu Ando, senior economist at Sumitomo Mitsui Banking.

Worries have been growing that the momentum for Japan's economic growth may be slowing.

"I still think that the economy is in a soft patch and risks are on the downside, with high uncertainties over China's economy and its trade war with the us", said Yoshiki Shinke, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute.

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