TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s exports likely posted their strongest growth in more than three years in March as overseas demand recovered, a Reuters poll showed on Friday, but more disruptions from the coronavirus crisis threatened to slow the growth of shipments.
The recovery in the world’s third-largest economy has been led by improving output and exports, but slow vaccine rollouts and a renewed surge in COVID-19 cases are clouding the outlook for consumption.
Next week’s key data includes core consumer inflation, which is expected to fall for the eight consecutive month as price pressures remained low due to weak consumer demand.
Exports likely rose 11.6% in March from a year earlier, which would mark the sharpest rise since January 2018, the poll of 16 economists showed.
Imports were forecast to have grown 4.7% in March from a year earlier, which would result in a trade surplus of 490.0 billion yen ($4.5 billion).
Japan’s economy suffered greatly from a shakeout in global trade due to the pandemic in the first quarter of last year, when it entered a recession for the first time in 4-1/2 years.
“Exports are again expected to turn positive compared to a year earlier, as they started to decline greatly in March last year due to the impact of the coronavirus,” said Kenta Maruyama, an economist at Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting.
“While the rising trend that is driven by strong demand for capital and information-related goods continues, it is slowing down slightly.”
The finance ministry announces trade data at 8:50 a.m. on Monday (2350 GMT Sunday).
The core consumer price index (CPI), which includes oil products but excludes volatile fresh food prices, is expected to have fallen 0.1% in March compared to the same month a year earlier, according to the Reuters poll.
The pace of decline, however, was expected to remain moderate as rising energy prices increasingly offset the downward pressure from lacklustre consumer spending due to the pandemic.
The government releases core CPI at 8:30 a.m. on Friday (2330 GMT Thursday).
($1 = 108.8500 yen)
(Reporting by Daniel Leussink; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)