Japan factory output seen up for fourth straight month, recovery slow


Japan's industrial production is expected to have risen for a fourth consecutive month in March albeit at a modest pace, a Reuters survey showed, in a sign that factory output is recovering slowly as exports struggle to gain momentum.

The median forecast was for a 0.4 percent rise from the previous month, which would follow a 0.6 percent increase in February and a 0.3 percent rise in January. The data are due on Tuesday at 8:50 a.m. (Monday at 1950 EST).

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The figures are expected to show that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's push to correct excessive yen strength and end years of stubborn deflation with a policy prescription dubbed "Abenomics" has yet to produce a significant increase in exports and factory output.

"It's difficult to expect a firm rebound in output without a turnaround in exports," economists at Mitsubishi UFJ Research & Consulting said in their forecast.

"The effects of 'Abenomics' cannot be seen yet in the real economy."

"Abenomics" combine fiscal stimulus spending with aggressive monetary expansion and a promise of pro-growth reforms in a gamble to end 15 years of deflation and lackluster economic growth.

The policy mix has so far driven the yen to a four-year low against the dollar and sparked a 50 percent rally in Japanese share prices from November, which has helped buoy consumer sentiment.

However, economists say it will still take some time before exports start to pick up, which is necessary to spur capital expenditure and shift economic growth into a higher gear.

The data from the ministry of economy and trade also contain manufacturers' forecasts for output in April and May.

Last month, manufacturers said they expected output to rise 0.6 percent in April.

Separate data on private consumption and the labor market are expected to paint a more positive picture as an improvement in consumer sentiment and rising stock prices encourage more people to spend.

Wage-earners' household spending is seen up 1.8 percent in March from a year earlier, the Reuters poll showed, which would mark the fastest pace of growth since May last year.

The unemployment rate is expected to have held steady at 4.3 percent in March, while the jobs-applicants ratio is forecast to have risen to 0.86 in March, matching the level seen in August 2008.

The ministry of internal affairs and the labor ministry will release the data on Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. (Monday at 2330 GMT).

Retail sales figures also due on Tuesday are expected to show a 0.6 percent rise in March from a year earlier, the first gain in two months, according the median estimate from the poll.

(Editing by Tomasz Janowski and Shri Navaratnam)