Growth in last quarter halved to 0.7% pace

Bloomberg

The economy expanded in the second quarter at half the pace the government initially estimated, underscoring the risk of contraction in Japan as Europe’s debt crisis caps exports.

Gross domestic product grew an annualized 0.7 percent in the April-June period, the Cabinet Office said Monday, less than a preliminary calculation of 1.4 percent. The median forecast of 26 economists surveyed was for a revised 1 percent gain.

Gridlock in the Diet may limit fiscal stimulus just as the nation’s expansion is restrained by weakness in global demand, strength in the yen and the winding down of car-purchase subsidies. A slowdown in Asia may further curtail exports and add to pressure for monetary easing after Chinese data Sunday suggested the region’s biggest economy is losing steam.

“Europe’s debt crisis and the yen’s strength restrained companies from spending in the second quarter,” said Takashi Shiono, an economist at Credit Suisse Group AG in Tokyo. “Japan’s economy will probably contract in the third quarter as the boost from the government’s car subsidy program wanes and the downward pressure from weak external demand materializes.”

Already saddled with the world’s largest public debt burden, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his administration may run out of money as soon as December as lawmakers block legislation for deficit-financing bonds, finance ministry forecasts show. Noda’s opponents aim to force an early election.

Industrial production has cooled and manufacturers such as Toyota Motor Corp. will be hit by the end of government handouts for purchases of energy-efficient cars. Currency gains may weigh on exporters, with the yen up about 7 percent against the dollar since mid-March.

While a European Central Bank plan to buy bonds and China’s approvals of projects for building roads and subways spurred global gains in equities last week, data released Sunday showed that Chinese industrial output rose the least in three years in August.

In Japan, the central bank is set to review monetary policy on Sept. 18 and 19 and may add to easing by October at the latest, according to Citigroup Inc. In the revised figures for the second-quarter economy, the government reduced its estimate of private companies’ inventories of raw materials.