February 3, 2017 / 6:52 AM / in 10 months

Japan's economy seen expanding for fourth straight quarter, led by exports

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s economy was seen growing for a fourth straight quarter in October-December thanks to stronger exports and a pickup in capital spending, a Reuters poll found on Friday.

Japan's national flag is seen in front of containers and cranes at an industrial port in Tokyo, Japan, January 25, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Poll respondents saw the economy as likely continuing to recover even though uncertainty over the policies of U.S. President Donald Trump remains deep.

The economy was expected to expand at an annualized rate of 1.1 percent in the fourth quarter, according to the poll of 20 analysts, after posting growth of 1.3 percent in the third quarter.

Under those circumstances quarter-on-quarter growth would a 0.3 percent gain, unchanged from July-September.

“Data will likely confirm the economy is on a moderate recovery led by a pickup in overseas economies,” said Hidenobu Tokuda, senior economist at Mizuho Research Institute.

“Japan’s economic recovery is expected to continue, helped by global economic growth and yen weakness. But downside risks are also high because of uncertainty over protectionism in the U.S. and the political situation in Europe.”

The poll found net exports added 0.3 percentage point to growth in October-December, the same as it contributed in the third quarter.

Capital spending was seen growing 0.9 percent in the last quarter, the poll found, rising for the first time in two quarters.

Private consumption, which accounts for roughly 60 percent of gross domestic product, was seen flat in the last quarter, after posting modest gains in the previous three quarters.

The Cabinet Office will announce the GDP data on Feb. 13 at 8:50 a.m.(2350 GMT, Feb. 12).

Japan’s core machinery orders, a leading indicator of capital spending, were seen rising 3.1 percent in December from the previous month, up for the first time in two months.

The highly volatile data series, regarded as an indicator of capital spending in the next six to nine months, fell 5.1 percent in November.

From a year ago, core orders, which exclude orders for ships and electrical equipment, were expected to rise 4.6 percent in December after a 10.4 percent gain in November.

“Corporate investment sentiment is picking up as a brighter mood is spreading in the global economy - although we cannot dispel risks from U.S. policy,” said Takumi Tsunoda, senior economist at Shinkin Central Bank.

The Cabinet Office will publish the machinery orders data at 8:50 a.m. on Feb. 9.

The poll found Japan was likely to post a current account surplus of 1.29 trillion yen ($11.42 billion) in December, which would be 30 straight surplus month.

The corporate goods price index (CGPI), which measures the price companies charge each other for goods and services likely stopped falling in December helped by price gains in oil- and coal-related products after 21 straight months of posting year-on-year declines.

Reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Eric Meijer

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