Japan’s annual export growth in February was short of market expectations and a Bank of Japan policymaker warned about the outlook as the world’s third-largest economy faces a sales tax hike next month that could dent economic activity.
The weaker-than-expected trade data comes after a Reuters poll showed that business confidence was largely steady in March, but is expected to slide after the sales tax is raised to 8 percent from 5 percent on April 1.
Tepid export growth has been a concern for policymakers, who are counting on stronger shipments to help cushion any slide in domestic consumption after the sales tax rise.
Some market watchers, however, including a central bank board member, doubt there will be an early recovery in exports.
BOJ board member Takahide Kiuchi warned that exports could continue to disappoint and that consumer spending could weaken, but said he did not think additional policy easing would help the economy in the long-term.
Exports rose 9.8 percent in February from a year earlier, following a 9.5 percent gain in the previous month, as shipments of cars to China and Asia recovered from a Lunar New Year slowdown, Ministry of Finance (MOF) data showed.
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