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Japan February export growth seen slowing, core inflation accelerating

Reuters

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's exports likely rose in February at a slower pace than the previous month due to the timing of the Lunar New Year holiday but their upward trend is expected to stay intact with external demand intact, a Reuters poll showed on Friday.

Exports were expected to have risen 1.9 percent in February from a year earlier after a revised 12.3 percent gain in January, the poll of 19 economists found.

Imports were seen up 17.1 percent from a year ago while trade deficit likely stood at 99.6 billion yen.

"We expect exports remained on the rising trend if we average them out. China's demand will continue to support semiconductor-related products' shipments," said Kazuyuki Tsuchiya, senior researcher at Mitsubishi Research Institute in the survey.

"But growing protectionism by the Trump administration, as in the decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, is a worrying factor."

The finance ministry will publish the trade data at 8:50 a.m. Tokyo time on March 19 (2350 GMT, March 18).

Japan, along with the European Union, has urged the United States to grant them exemptions from metal import tariffs, with Tokyo calling for "calm-headed behaviors" in a dispute that threatens to spiral into a trade war.

Next week's data also includes Japan's consumer inflation data, which is expected to show core consumer prices rising in February partly led by gains in gasoline prices, the poll showed.

The core CPI index, which includes oil products but excludes volatile fresh food prices, likely rose 1.0 percent last month from a year ago following a 0.9 percent of growth in January.

"We expect core CPI will stay around 1.0 percent and it will lose the momentum temporarily around the middle of this year partly due to yen's recent appreciation, which is weighting on import prices," said Takeshi Minami, chief economist at Norinchukin Research Institute.

The internal affairs ministry will announce the nationwide consumer prices data at 8:30 a.m. Tokyo time on March 23 (2330 GMT on March 22).

The ministry will release Tokyo area's core consumer prices on March 30.

(Reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Sam Holmes)