Japanese Growth Beats Expectations

Japan's economy grew 0.5% in first quarter: Data

What Happened: Japan's gross domestic product (GDP) grew at an annualized rate of 2.1 percent in the first quarter of 2019, surpassing forecasts of a 0.2 percent contraction, The Japan Times reported May 20.

The results defied gloomy expectations by analysts who predicted a small decline at the start of this year, but some economists warned that signs of weakness remained beneath the positive headline figure. It followed a revised 1.6 per cent expansion in October-December. Economists cited by Bloomberg had anticipated a 0.2% contraction for the quarter.

The GDP data comes as the government's coincident economic indicator flagged the possibility Japan may be in a recession as exports and factory output were hit by China's slowdown and the Sino-U.S. trade war.

Mr Thieliant also said that following the better-than-expected growth figures Japan "will press ahead with the sales tax hike scheduled for 1 October".

Imports fell at a faster pace, at 4.6 percent, as purchases of crude oil and natural gas decreased on the back of slowing domestic demand.

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

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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. "The economy has already peaked out, so we are likely to have a mild recession".

The data were closely watched for any signals a planned sales tax rise could be delayed.

Net exports contributed strongly to the latest growth figures but only because the fall in imports outweighed a decline in exports, the Cabinet Office said.

Exports dropped 2.4 percent, with China-bound shipments slumping amid escalating Washington-Beijing trade tensions.

Some policymakers have called for a delay to the sales tax increase from 8% to 10% given a backdrop of uncertain domestic and global economic conditions.

"The Japanese economy has come to a standstill", said Tsuyoshi Ueno, senior economist at the NLI Research Institute.

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