Japan economy ends two years of growth

Woman in a Kimono makes her way at a shopping district in Tokyo

"There were one-off special factors in the January-March period, ranging from stock market sell-offs to higher vegetable prices due to bad weather", said Takeshi Minami, chief economist at Norinchukin.

GDP is expected to be flat on quarter and slip 0.1% on year after adding 0.4% on quarter and 1.6% on year in the three months prior.

Economists don't expect the period of contraction to last long.

Economists polled by Reuters suggest Japan's economic growth has decreased by an annualised rate of 0.1% in the first quarter of 2018 after recording 1.6% growth in the final quarter of 2017.

Given Japan's reliance on export-led growth, trade friction brought on by President Donald Trump's efforts to trim the perennial US trade deficit has raised uncertainty over the outlook for the economy.

"The economy is unlikely to continue to contract further".

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Slower export growth reflected a decline in shipments of mobile phone parts and factory equipment in the quarter, a government official said.

The surprise quarterly decline saw the seasonally-adjusted annual rate decline to -0.6%, below the -0.2% level forecast by economists.

Maruyama of SMBC Nikko Securities.

Consumers will keep purse strings tight "unless the pace of wage increases shows a clear acceleration", he said in a commentary published ahead of the data release.

The first-quarter contraction could make Japanese politicians more reluctant to implement a hike in sales tax to 10 percent from the current 8 percent scheduled for next year.

Under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the world's third-largest economy has picked up steam through a deflation-fighting stimulus program driven mainly by asset purchases by the central bank that are injecting billions of dollars into the economy each year.

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