TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s exports were expected to rise for a 16th straight month in March and to maintain a rising trend, but the strong yen was seen likely to curb the pace of growth, a Reuters poll showed on Friday.
The trade data will be closely watched ahead of talks next week between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump, with trade issues expected to be high on the agenda.
Exports were seen likely to have grown 4.7 percent in March from a year earlier after a 1.8 percent rise in February, the poll of 19 economists found.
Imports were expected to show a 5.4 percent gain for the month, slowing substantially from a revised 16.6 percent in February, while the March trade surplus was seen at 498 billion yen ($4.6 billion).
“The strong yen likely trimmed the value of exports, but the volume of trade is projected to hold its rising trend because there is no change to the global economic recovery,” said Takeshi Minami, chief economist at Norinchukin Research Institute.
Economists also noted that the Trump administration’s increasingly protectionist posture was a concern for Japan’s export outlook.
“It is a risk,” said Akihiro Morishige, senior researcher at Mitsubishi Research Institute, “The financial markets could become volatile if things get intense.”The finance ministry will issue the trade data at 8:50 a.m. Tokyo time on April 18 (2350 GMT, April 17).
The poll also found the core consumer price index, which includes oil products but excludes volatile fresh food prices, was expected to rise 0.9 percent in March from a year ago versus a 1.0 percent gain in February.
“We expect that core CPI grew more slowly as upward price pressure from energy and food, as well as entertainment, fell back,” said Yuichiro Nagai, economist at Barclays Securities Japan.
“We forecast core CPI will stay around 0.8-1.0 percent through the middle of this year and will hit a peak at 1.1 percent in September.”
The internal affairs ministry will publish the core CPI index at 8:30 a.m. Tokyo time on April 20 (2330 GMT on April 19).
($1 = 107.3800 yen)
Reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Eric Meijer