Japan's May exports seen growing, core inflation remains subdued: Reuters poll

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s exports likely rose at a solid pace in May, led by demand for semiconductor related products and supporting views the economy is pulling out of a rough patch after shrinking in the first quarter, a Reuters poll showed on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: A worker rides a bicycle in a container area at a port in Tokyo April 21, 2014. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo

Exports probably rose 7.5 percent from a year earlier, the poll of 16 economists showed, helped by shipments of semiconductor manufacturing equipments, semiconductor electronic parts and non-ferrous metal. In April, they grew 7.8 percent.

Imports likely grew 8.2 percent last month, picking up from 5.9 percent in April.

The trade balance was seen moving into a deficit of 235.0 billion yen ($2.12 billion) for May as higher oil prices pushed up import costs, according to the poll.

“The momentum for the global economy has peaked out but it is (still) expanding,” said chief market economist Yoshimasa Maruyama at SMBC Nikko Securities.

“There is a high possibility that net exports in April-June will contribute to the economic growth.”

Analysts will also be looking for any clues in the data on whether trade tensions between the Unites States and other major economies have affected Japan’s exports.

Washington has upset its closest allies by imposing a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports.

President Donald Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on auto imports has also drawn strong criticism abroad and at home. New tariffs on auto imports could raise costs for Japanese automakers doing business in the United States.

Japan’s economy contracted an annualized 0.6 percent in the first quarter but many analysts expect it to rebound in the current quarter led by solid exports and capital expenditure.

The finance ministry will release the trade data at 8:50 a.m. Tokyo time on June 18 (2350 GMT, June 17).

The poll also showed the nationwide core consumer price index (CPI), which includes oil products but excludes volatile fresh food prices, rose 0.7 percent in May from a year earlier, unchanged from April.

“The cost of gasoline rose but the pace of price gains in electricity and household durable goods slowed down, so the core CPI index likely stayed steady,” said Yusuke Hirayoshi, an analyst at Mizuho Research Institute.

The Bank of Japan on Friday cut its view on inflation in a fresh blow to its long-held 2 percent price goal, reinforcing views that it will not begin to taper its massive stimulus program for some time to come.

The internal affairs ministry will announce the core CPI index at 8:30 a.m. Tokyo time on June 22 (2330 GMT on June 21).

($1 = 110.7600 yen)

Reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Kim Coghill