Japan’s economy slips into recession

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TOKYO: Japan's economy slipped into recession for the first time in 41/2 years in the last quarter, with the nation now teetering on the brink of its deepest post-war slump as the coronavirus crisis ravages businesses and consumers.

Yesterday's first-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) data underlined the broadening impact of the outbreak, with exports plunging the most since the devastating March 2011 earthquake as global lockdowns and supply chain disruptions hit shipments of Japanese goods.

Analysts warned of an even bleaker picture for the current quarter as consumption crumbled after the government last month requested citizens to stay home and businesses to close, intensifying the challenge for policymakers battling a once-in-a-century pandemic.

"It is near certainty the economy suffered an even deeper decline in the current quarter," said chief economist at Meiji Yasuda Research Institute Yuichi Kodama.

"Japan has entered a full-blown recession."

The world's third largest economy contracted an annualised 3.4 per cent in the first quarter, preliminary official GDP data showed, less than a median market forecast for a 4.6 per cent drop.

Even major manufacturers were not spared the pandemic's sweeping impact.

Toyota Motor will cut domestic vehicle production by 122,000 units next month and expects an 80 per cent drop in full-year operating profit.

The slump came on top of an even steeper 7.3 per cent fall in the October-December period, with the consecutive quarters of contraction meeting the technical definition of a recession.

Japan last suffered a recession in the second half of 2015.

It has over 16,000 confirmed infections and 749 deaths.

In China, there were seven new coronavirus cases on Sunday, up from five a day earlier.

Of the new cases, the northeastern province of Jilin, currently in a partial lockdown due to a flare-up in infections, reported two cases.

That takes the total number of new infections in Jilin to 33 since the first case of the current wave was reported on May 7.

Shanghai reported one new locally transmitted case, its first since late March.

The other four new cases involved infected travellers arriving in the northern Chinese region of Inner Mongolia from overseas.

The total number of confirmed cases in China stood at 82,954 as of May 17, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,633. - REUTERS