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A view of the Tokyo skyline is seen through the window of a special bus transporting journalists to the media hotel during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, August 2, 2021. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

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TOKYO, May 11 (Reuters) – Japan’s economy likely contracted in the first three months of this year as the lingering fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on consumption and exports, a Reuters poll showed.

The weak reading will underscore the challenge policymakers face in pulling the world’s third-largest economy sustainably out of the pandemic-induced doldrums.

While the economy is likely to rebound in the current quarter, the outlook remains clouded by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that has led to a surge in commodity and fuel costs.

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Gross domestic product (GDP) likely shrank an annualised 1.8% in the January-March period after a 4.6% expansion in the previous quarter, according to analysts polled by Reuters. That would translate into a quarterly 0.4% contraction.

“A big drop in consumption was mainly behind the contraction in January-March GDP, due largely to the outbreak of the Omicron variant,” said Saisuke Sakai, senior economist at Mizuho Research and Technologies.

“The recovery will remain moderate due to Japan’s worsening terms of trade blamed on the Ukraine crisis and slowing global growth,” he said.

Private consumption, which accounts for more than half of GDP, likely fell 0.5%, largely because of the Omicron outbreak that forced the government to impose curbs on activity.

External demand, or exports minus imports, likely knocked 0.3 percentage point off GDP growth, reflecting weak exports.

Capital spending is expected to have risen 0.7% after a 0.3% increase in the previous quarter, according to the poll.

Cabinet Office is expected to release the January-March GDP data at 8:50 a.m. on May 18 (2350 GMT May 17).

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Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Christian Schmollinger

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.