TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s factory output likely fell in February partly due to a global shortage of automotive chips, which has further damaged an economy already reeling from the coronavirus crisis, a Reuters poll found on Friday.
The poll also found retail sales, a key gauge of consumer spending, declined for a third straight month in February, as emergency curbs to stem the spread of the virus hit the service sector.
Japan’s state of emergency in some areas including Tokyo to fight the pandemic put pressure on firms, especially restaurants and hotels, raising a chance of an economic contraction in the first quarter.
Industrial production was expected to have fallen 1.2% in February from the previous month, the poll of 19 economists showed on Friday. Industrial production had risen 4.3% in January.
“In addition to reactionary falls after big gains in the previous month, a decline in auto production due to a shortage of semiconductors likely weighed down overall factory output,” said Yoshiki Shinke, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute.
A fire earlier this month at a chip plant owned by Renesas Electronics Corp has exacerbated the shortage of chips globally, and put a further drag on the recovery in factory output during the first quarter, according to analysts.
The poll also showed retail sales dropped 2.8% from a year earlier after a 2.4% fall in January as consumers avoided going out for shopping due to the pandemic.
The trade ministry will publish retail sales data at 8:50 a.m. on Tuesday (2350 GMT Monday) and factory output on Wednesday.
The nation’s jobless rate was seen at 3.0% in February, worsening slightly from 2.9% in January, as restrictions to contain the coronavirus cases hurt the hospitality sector, according to the poll.
The jobs-to-applicants ratio, a gauge of the availability of jobs, stood steady at 1.10 in February, the poll showed.
Jobs data will be released on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)